Delivery Of CAD Files To Clients Creates Liability For Unwary Design Professionals

Technology changed the way we think about everything. Ironically, some of the most technologically advanced professionals – architects and engineers – frequently fail to think about their professional liability risks created by the technology used during the construction process.

For example, a escalating trend for the last 10 years has been for clients to demand design professionals deliver their computer aided design (CAD) files both during the design phase and along with final, sealed construction documents.

This trend will only continue because CAD systems, previously cost-prohibitive, have become readily available to virtually everyone involved in the construction industry.

Clients and other third parties know that a design professional can now simply click and send their entire CAD file to virtually anyone in a matter of seconds.

That simple click-and-send step, however, can have serious legal consequences for unwary design professionals who have failed to negotiate strong contracts or obtain signed releases and indemnity agreements.

CAD systems have changed the construction process. They provide an efficient platform to facilitate the entire construction process. Changes during the concept and design phase, or changes need in the field during the construction phase, can be made quickly and easily.

CAD files, however, now make duplication and manipulation of designs relatively easy for anyone with access to the files, creating significant copyright issues for the design professional as well.

So what steps can a design professionals take to mitigate their professional risk from sharing CAD files and protect their copyrights? Unfortunately, there is virtually no case law or statutes, and few industry standards, setting forth the standard of care for professionals who voluntarily or contractually chose to deliver CAD files to client or third party.

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