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Intellectual Property Issues Faced by HOAs: Protecting Rights and Avoiding Legal Pitfalls

Homeowners’ Associations (“HOAs”) play a vital role in managing communities, ensuring harmony, and maintaining property values. However, in the realm of intellectual property, HOAs can face unique challenges that require careful attention. In this post, we will explore three prominent issues related to intellectual property faced by HOAs and provide insights on how to navigate these challenges effectively.


Trademarking the HOA’s Property:

Establishing a unique brand identity is crucial for an HOA, as it distinguishes the community and helps build a strong reputation. Trademarking the name, logo, slogans, or trade dress associated with the HOA safeguards its identity and prevents unauthorized use by others within or outside the community.

Moreover, HOAs must remain vigilant to avoid infringing on existing trademarks. When selecting a name or designing a logo, thorough research should be conducted to ensure that it does not resemble or conflict with any pre-existing trademarks. This diligence helps prevent costly legal battles and potential rebranding efforts down the line.

To protect their trademarks and ensure that an HOA is not infringing another mark; HOAs should consider working with a trademark attorney, like me, to conduct a comprehensive search and file appropriate trademark applications. This proactive approach prevents potential conflicts and strengthens their legal rights.


VARA Issues with Works at HOAs:

The Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”) grants certain rights to artists, including the right to claim authorship and prevent the destruction or alteration of their works. HOAs that display artworks, murals, or sculptures within their communities need to be aware of the implications of VARA.

Under VARA, artists are entitled to rights of attribution and integrity.  The right of attribution mandates that a work was created by the artist be credited to the artist, or not. As determined by the artist. The Right of integrity prevents the intentional modification of a work that damages the artist’s reputation, or the destruction of the work. Vara only applies to works of limited edition that are produced for exhibition purposes only.

When acquiring or commissioning works of art, an HOA should ensure they have proper agreements in place that clarify the extent of rights granted to artists and address potential modifications or removal of the artwork. Respecting an artists’ rights and maintaining open communication with them can help avoid legal disputes and preserve the integrity of the community’s art collection.


Copyright Infringement:

HOAs often organize community gatherings and events to foster a sense of unity and enjoyment among residents. However, without proper awareness, unintentional copyright infringement can occur during such occasions. For instance, playing copyrighted music or screening movies without obtaining the necessary licenses from Performing Rights Organizations (“PRO”) like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or the rights holder can lead to legal repercussions.

If the HOA maintains any type of online presence, then there is also a risk of copyright infringement.  This happens when the HOA uses copyrighted materials on their website without the permission of the original artist or rights holder. A great example of this is searching the internet with Google for an image, saving the image, and then putting it on the HOA website. The HOA needs to license or create the content that is used on its website. If your HOA receives a notice of copyright infringement, it should contact an attorney to discuss all the options it has.

To avoid copyright infringement, HOAs should proactively secure licenses or permissions for music and other copyrighted materials used at gatherings. By working with PROs or obtaining specific event licenses, HOAs can ensure compliance and protect themselves from potential legal repercussions.


Other Relevant Intellectual Property Issues:

In addition to the three main issues discussed above, HOAs may encounter various other intellectual property challenges. These can include unauthorized use of copyrighted materials by residents or third parties, disputes over ownership and control of HOA-developed intellectual property, and protecting digital assets and online content from infringement or misuse.


In Conclusion

HOAs must be proactive in understanding and managing intellectual property issues to protect their interests, maintain a positive reputation, and avoid costly legal consequences. Seeking legal guidance and staying updated on intellectual property laws will ensure HOAs can effectively protect their community’s interests while fostering a vibrant and legally compliant environment. If you have any questions  or concerns about your HOA or you using intellectual property, please feel free to reach out to me at or if you want additional information, please visit our website or check out our other posts, Making your intangibles, tangible. Part 1: Copyrights, Can I trademark a catchphrase? or Intellectual Property: Back to the Basics. One final note, this blog is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.  This article, or contacting the Apex Law Group, does not form an attorney client relationship.

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