A Rare Hole-in-One for Copyright Protection?

Blog - Protecting the Product

A new bipartisan bill relating to copyright protection may be a hole-in-one for golf course architects and owners.

The Bolstering Intellectual Rights against Digital Infringement Enhancement Act, aptly named the "BIRDIE Act" (H.R. 7228), was introduced on February 5, 2024 by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). If passed, the BIRDIE Act would amend the U.S. Copyright Act to protect golf course designs. With the Masters Tournament later this month, Congress appears to appreciate the artistry and originality of golf courses more than ever before.

Copyright law already protects architectural designs for buildings. The BIRDIE Act would expand that definition to explicitly include golf course designs that were created on or after December 1, 1990. Specifically, the Act would protect course drawings as well as various course elements, including: landscaping, paths, golf greens, tees, bunkers, lakes, and practice facilities. Mini golf courses are excluded from the framework.

The push for this new category of copyright-protected work is timely given the rise of at-home and public golf simulators, which traditionally use real life courses in their design. Replica courses that recreate or pay tribute to iconic courses from around the world have been a favorite of golfers for almost forty years. If the BIRDIE Act becomes law, recreating an established golf course for either physical or virtual play would likely require a license, thereby providing additional revenue streams for iconic golf course designers.

Golf course architects will have to consider how—and how aggressively—to enforce their rights, whether they want to broadly license their newest designs, and if they want to re-design any of their classic pre-1990 designs enough to merit fresh protection. For the simulation and replica golf course businesses, software creators will have to familiarize themselves with new legal terrain to balance when it is worth negotiating a license to copy, and when creating a new design is more practical and cost effective.

The Quarles design rights legal team is nationally-recognized for its extensive knowledge and practice experience in this complex and important field. For questions about this article or on how to incorporate design-related legal rights into your intellectual property portfolio, please contact the author(s) of this post directly or send a message to the team via our Contact page. To subscribe to our mailing list and receive updates that highlight issues currently affecting the design rights legal field, click here.

Follow Quarles

Subscribe Media Contact
Back to Main Content

We use cookies to provide you with the best user experience on our website and to analyze statistics related to our website. To understand more about how we use cookies, or for instructions to change your preference and browser settings, please see our Privacy Notice. Please note that if you choose to reject cookies, doing so may impair some of our website's functionality.