Public safety bodies put out fire over IP disputes

The International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have announced the settlement of three lawsuits over various copyright and trademark issues.

The ICC is a membership association dedicated to building safety and fire prevention. It develops codes used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools, in most US cities. The NFPA is an international non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.

The disputes resolved include a 2002 action charging that the NFPA infringed copyrights in the ICC's International Building Code, and a 2003 case brought by the NFPA against ICC for trademark infringement and for violation of a previous settlement agreement.

The current settlement protects the NFPA's right to continue to publish and distribute its NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code. A third dispute before the US Patent and Trademark Office involved the use of the phrase 'Certified Building Official'. Under the agreement, the NFPA will be able to register its certification marks NFPA-CERTIFIED BUILDING OFFICIAL and NFPA-CBO.

Concerning the reasons for settlement, ICC Chief Operating Officer Rick Weiland said:

"We would rather focus on serving our members and the public than continue to spend a lot of time and money on lawsuits […] We want to invest our resources in public safety and in the thousands of communities across the country that use our family of International Codes."

In addition to resolving the pending disputes, the settlement agreement also includes provisions designed to reduce future lawsuits between the two organizations. For example, the agreement limits in various ways the ICC's ability to sue the NFPA with new allegations of copyright infringement. These steps should certainly be of benefit to the public, as well as to both organizations.

Ronald A Clayton and Simon A Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto, New York

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