U.S. Copyright Office
Library of Congress
Home About News Publications Forms Law Licensing Registration Search Records

Registration of Vessel Hull Designs

The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, Title 17, Chapter 13 of the United States Code, was signed into law on October 28, 1998, providing for protection for original designs of vessel hulls. The law grants an owner of an original vessel hull design certain exclusive rights provided that application for registration of the design with the Copyright Office is made within two years of the design being made public. Protection is afforded only to vessel hull designs embodied in actual vessel hulls that are publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public on or after October 28, 1998. The Copyright Office has promulgated interim regulations for registration of vessel hull designs. Please note that the fees* listed in the regulations are not current.

*NOTE: Copyright Office fees are subject to change. For current fees, please check the Copyright Office website at www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html, write the Copyright Office, or call (202) 707-3000.

Registration of a vessel hull design must be made on a Form D-VH. A continuation sheet, Form D-VH/CON, may be used if additional space is required. To be considered for registration, a submitted application must include the following elements:

  1. a completed and signed Form D-VH;
  2. deposit material identifying the design or designs for which registration is sought; and
  3. the appropriate fee. The basic application fee for each design covers up to three pages of deposit material. For more than three pages of deposit material, there is an additional charge.

The deposit material may consist of either drawings or photographs of the design. Because the drawings or photographs constitute the entire visual disclosure of the design, they should be clear and complete, and include a sufficient number of views so that the appearance of the design is adequately shown. Please consult the “Basic Information” section of Form D-VH for the requirements for deposit material.

A single application may be used for more than one design embodied in the same vessel provided that the information contained in all spaces of the application other than the information describing the design is the same for each design. See the instructions for Space 2 on Form D-VH and use Form D-VH/CON.

The effective date of a vessel hull design registration is the date on which the Copyright Office publishes notice of the registration. Notice of registration will be published on the Copyright Office website, and registrations may be viewed, in reverse chronological order, on our Vessel Hull Design Registration page.

Although design protection and copyright protection under title 17 of the United States Code are both administered by the Register of Copyrights, they are not identical. Design protection differs significantly in most respects, including term of protection, ownership, eligibility, scope of protection and registration procedures. While some designs that are eligible for design protection may also be eligible for copyright protection, design registration does not include a copyright registration. Copyright registration must be made separately.

Design protection under the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act is not available, and registration may not be made, for designs that have received patent protection under title 35 of the United States Code.

When a design protected under the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act is publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public, a design notice should appear on the vessel in the manner set forth in section 212.4 of the interim regulations. The notice may contain, in place of the name of the owner of the design, a distinctive identification of the owner if the distinctive identification has been recorded with the Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office and the Patent and Trademark Office delivered a report, “The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act: Overview and Analysis,” to Congress on November 3, 2003. Congress directed the Register of Copyrights and the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property/Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to conduct a study and report to Congress on the effectiveness of the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act (VHDPA), enacted in 1998, which created sui generis protection for original designs of water craft hulls and decks.

Vessel Hull Design Protection Act: Overview and Analysis