Copyright on typefaces
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Some jurisdictions recognise copyright on typefaces.
In the United States, the Copyright Office maintains that typeface designs are not covered by copyright, and it will not accept applications for their registration. See 37. C.F.R. § 202.1(e). In Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 338 F.3d 127, 132 (2nd Cir. 2003), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recognized this rule when it held, “the public domain includes, for example, both the generic shape of the letter 'L' and all of the elaborately more specific 'L's' from the hundreds of years of font designs that have fallen into the public domain.” However, if a design is novel and "non-obvious," it may be covered by design patent.
Germany (in 1981) passed a special extension (Schriftzeichengesetz) to the design patent law (Geschmacksmustergesetz) for protecting typeface designs. This permits typefaces being registered as designs in Germany, too. So far, the United States courts have not published any opinions discussing whether a computer program creating a particular font might be intellectual property protected by the copyright laws.
England recognized copyright in typeface at least as early as 1916. The current United Kingdom copyright statute, enacted in 1989, expressly refers to copyrights in typeface designs.
In Switzerland, there is no specific law for the protection of typefaces. The jurisdiction so far has been very reluctant in admitting legal protection of any sort to typefaces. However, the denied protection is not imperative: in theory typefaces could be protected based on both copyright and design law. Additionally, the name of a typeface can be protected by a trademark.
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^ Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 338 F.3d 127, 132 (2nd Cir. 2003) (via FindLaw)
^ See, for example, U.S. Des. Patent No. 289,773, May 12, 1987, Typeface design, Charles A. Bigelow and Kris A. Holmes, inventors.
^ "Stephenson, Blake and Co. v. Grant, Legros & Co., 115 L.T.R. 666, 61 Sol. J. 55 (1916), reprinted in E.J. MacGillivray, Copyright Cases 1911-1916 326-329 (1969), aff'd 116 L.T.R. 268 (1917), noted in 13 Eng. and Empire Digest 68, 68-69. The court recognized that the typeface design was subject to copyright under the then-current Copyright Act of 1911, An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Law Relating to Copyright, 1911, 1 & 2 Geo. 5, ch. 46 (Eng.). However, the plaintiff's victory was hollow. The court held that the copyright protected only the design in its entirety, with all the letters in their particular order. The defendant's embodiment of them into a font of his own, as opposed to a reproduction of the design with the letters in the same order, was held not to infringe. MacGillivray , supra at 327-28." Terrence J. Carroll, Protection For Typeface Designs: A Copyright Proposal, 10 Santa Clara Computer & High Tech. L.J. 139, 169, n.181.
^ Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, ch. 48, § 54 (England)
^ Valentin Blank, Der Schutz typographischer Schriftzeichen und Schriften im Schweizer Recht, Bern 1999 (http://www.vblank.ch/articles/font-protection/index-g.html)
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