The National Academies

NCHRP 20-06/Topic 18-03 [Final]

Legal Issues Surrounding the Use of Digital Intellectual Property on Design and Construction Projects
[ NCHRP 20-06 (Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $51,500
Research Agency: The Thomas Law Firm
Principal Investigator: James B. McDaniel
Effective Date: 6/1/2011
Completion Date: 7/1/2012

The development of building information models (BIM) on construction projects has increased over the past decade, and use of BIM on highways, bridges, and complex interchanges is on the rise. Some of the beneficial uses of BIM on transportation design and construction projects include acting as a repository for project information, comparison of what-if scenarios, evaluating impacts of changes on budgets and schedules, visualization of complex geometry, environmental impacts of various design options, and more. The use of BIM and the sharing of the digital model also encourage the contracting parties (i.e., owner, designer, and contractors) to work together more collaboratively and to share and jointly use the model.
However, BIM usage has created new legal challenges that were not previously present in the paper-based design and construction process.  The unique legal aspects of sharing digital information and apportioning the associated risks needs to be addressed to aid agencies as they expand the use of BIM.

The objective of this research is to develop an understanding of current legal issues surrounding the use of BIM on transportation design and construction projects. The research effort may include (1) a survey of current practices and (2) consultation with experts in the design and construction field to determine how risk, liability, intellectual property, and other topics are being addressed with respect to BIM usage on transportation design and construction projects. The research will culminate in the preparation of a Legal Research Digest to provide transportation attorneys with guidance on legal issues in this area.

STATUS: Research has been completed and published as NCHRP Legal Research Digest No. 58 and is available for download from the TRB website.

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