Chart a Course to Better IP Protection! How Cartographers Protect Their Intellectual Property

Sep 29, 2022

Every mapmaker, or cartographer, has their own unique style and artistic flair. That’s why you can find two maps of the same area that still look distinct. The job of a cartographer is to give a comprehensive blueprint of an area, but the colors, lines, and layout they use are all their own. That’s also why it’s important for cartographers to take steps to protect their intellectual property. Besides a registered copyright, cartographers have certain tricks of the trade that can help set a map apart as their own and catch any attempts at theft.

Why Cartographers Copyright Their Maps

The job of a cartographer is to map out an area, whether it be a layout of city streets or a map of countries or continents. They’re depicting something that already exists to serve as a guide for travelers, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t intellectual effort and property involved. Cartography is a painstaking process that takes a considerable amount of time and effort. And as we already discussed, all cartographers tend to put their own personal touch on their maps to make them distinct from others of the same area. A cartographer’s artistry is their livelihood, which is why they often take the extra step to register their copyright.

Cartography Tricks To Protect Intellectual Property

With help from the right intellectual property legal team, it’s not hard to register a copyright for a map. Catching and proving copyright theft, however, can be trickier. After all, if there are two maps of the same area, how different can they be?

Many cartographers utilize a trick of the trade to make their own map distinct and to catch any instances of plagiarism: trap streets. These are fake streets unique to the cartographer’s map so they won’t be found on any other legitimate map of the area. That means if those streets are found on another map, the cartographer knows their own map was copied. They can then take action to protect their copyright. Some trap streets are more subtle, such as making a road curvier than it actually is.

These artificial “trap” markers are not just limited to streets. A cartographer might add a small lake or landmark that doesn’t exist, or even in some cases an entire hamlet. The key is to make changes that won’t affect those who need to use the map, but will be noticeable if anyone attempts to copy your work.

Taking Action If Someone Copies Your Copyrighted Map

So what happens if you find that another cartographer has copied your map? It helps to have an intellectual property attorney on your side. They can not only help you register your copyright but defend it if need be. When you notice that another map bears one of your trap streets, ask your attorney to send a cease and desist letter to prevent further copyright infringement. If the copyright infringement continues, you and your attorney can discuss further action to take.

Garcia-Zamor has over two decades of combined experience helping clients protect their intellectual property. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to get started letting us represent you.