In general, are typeface name trademarks necessary?

paul d hunt's picture
63% (35 votes)
18% (10 votes)
I don't know.
20% (11 votes)
Total votes: 56


Si_Daniels's picture

> Regulars know of all the piracy that goes on, often in the shape of ripping a font and renaming it, thereby circumventing US copyright laws.

Doesn't Adobe v SSI prove that's not the case?

Also TM's if policed last forever, copyright and design patents expire after a relatively short period of time.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I would prefer that the actual font (eg its appearance) got the same protection that a TM gets in the US. And that's why I voted no — there is a faux feeling of security that TM-protection gives. Regulars know of all the piracy that goes on, often in the shape of ripping a font and renaming it, thereby circumventing US copyright laws.

Si_Daniels's picture

Bottom line - Those trying to protect trademarks are in a catch 22 situation - if they police their TM's they have to send out nastygrams that may get reposted on sites like Luc's - if they don't police their TMs they lose them.

Cheers, Si

fontplayer's picture

> Every time you fail to defend your trademark, you weaken it...

So they go after my friend for Helvassim, but let let others slide for fonts with names closer to their trade name like GoToHellvetica.

Unless Sander is a lawyer himself and threatened Linotype with the Dutch equivalent of a slap-action suit. They seem to have lightened up lately so maybe they did get their wrists slapped. Too bad there isn't someone from Linotype here to comment on the facts.

There are plenty of things I don't remember, but when someone screws with a nice person I know, I have a hard time letting go.

John Hudson's picture

The name 'Helvetica' as applied to a typeface is a Linotype trademark. Names of typefaces that are close to that name, especially if deliberately so, fall within the typical bounds of trademark infringement as set by existing laws. If you want to preserve a trademark, you have to defend it. Every time you fail to defend your trademark, you weaken it, because in a subsequent case the defendant can say 'Look, they have not rigorously defended their trademark when it was infringed on this occasion'. That, unfortunate or absurd as the results may sometimes be, is the situation in which trademark owners are obliged to operate.

The situation for digital fonts is complicated by their status as software. We wanted to call a font Oracle a few years ago, but were advised against it by a lawyer on the grounds that Oracle is an established trademark in the software business. Presumably if we had been making metal type, this would not have been an issue.

fontplayer's picture

But cordoning off whole sections of language is taking it too far. Like they invented the word Helva. Give me a break. Talk about creepy things climbing out from under a rock... (This is one of my pet peeves, in case that wasn't coming through)

John Hudson's picture

It should be noted that there is a difference between a claimed trademark and a registered trademark. A trademark can be claimed simply by a statement claiming that 'X is a trademark of...'. The requirements for such a claim are that the trademarked product is in the marketplace, and that you defend that trademark against infraction. If someone uses your trademark and you fail to defend the trademark, then you can lose it. If you have claimed a trademark and someone else comes along and claims that you are infringing their trademark, then you need to be able to prove that your use of the trademark precedes theirs.

The situation for a registered trademark is actually very similar: you still need to actively defend your trademarks or risk losing them. But the fight will be easier because the registration process requires proof up front that you have a right to the trademark and that it does not impinge on anyone else's trademark. This requires a trademark search, which can be very expensive, especially if you want to register internationally in multiple jurisdictions.

Given how expensive the registration process is, and the requirement to actively defend your trademarks, one can hardly blame companies for taking a hard line on anything that can be perceived as trademark infringement: if they let anything pass by without a challenge, that can be taken as insufficient defense of the trademark, and it may be lost.

Norbert Florendo's picture

> There are certain names that cannot be trademarked. You can not run willy-nilly with trademarks. There is government regulation and oversight.

I think the problem we are facing regarding typefaces and their names is the WAY people now search for type.

Given the fact that there is an active community of type users (and type buyers), I hazard a guess that the majority of searches are done on the web and not through hardcopy catalogs and/or promo material.

Given the fact that many new designers (and users of type) may not know the more established type foundries, type designers, font vendors and developers, a simple search for Leporello may yield (theoretically) two or more sources -- one on a font distributor site as Leporello™ and one on a "Free Font" site listed as LePorellow (a type rip-off with no trademark info).

In the past, there was legal recourse since the majority of type foundries were known to each other and could be confronted. But today, a font could be knocked-off relatively easy and placed for download on the web quite quickly and anonymously.

The trade-protection of type relies both on the industry itself AND the consumers. Back in the old twentieth-century, designers would often insist on using specific typefaces from reputable foundries. Today the type using market is less likely to care about where it came from but how much it costs if anything.

For some reason (I can hazard a guess why) brand names are still highly vested among consumers. This is a chief reason why trademarking typeface names is the strongest option for protecting type at this time.

fontplayer's picture

But I protest vigorously The type of behaviour LinoType engages in, such as spoof of Hellvetica called Helvassim causing the following debacle:

Because of this type of thing I never recommend Linotype for anything. Even though they seem to have some nice things going on. Until they can reign in those lawyers...

dan_reynolds's picture

Yes. It is important. There is so little protection for typeface design that every little bit counts.

There are certain names that cannot be trademarked. You can not run willy-nilly with trademarks. There is government regulation and oversight. It could be better, but it is a start.

I'd like to hear some reasons for *not* allowing trademark protection of typeface names. I haven't heard any yet.

dezcom's picture

I wish it were not such a litigious world but I fear it is needed (although some crazed owners of old historic type names have made a mockery of it with shameless spurious law suits).


Dezcom, the type designer formerly known as "Hey You!"

Geoff Riding's picture

I voted yes.

I don't really have the expertise to write convincing rationale, but I really think it is important to have your typeface name trademarked so it is an unique product, thus distinguished from other typefaces (at least by name).

Norbert Florendo's picture

A typeface/family is a product which is requested, specified, ordered, purchased by name, and in some instances the name serves as the key identifier as to which product it is ("Neue Helvetica™" vs. "Helvetica™").

Current technology uses "name" identifiers in the font selection menu on virtually every PC/Mac as opposed to numeric or strictly visual identifiers. The branding of a typeface is therefore critical all the way up to "font selection" menu.

Historically it wasn't always a major branding issue each time a typeface was released, and in fact, many type houses never used names (just catalog numbers) for a great majority of faces during the photo-headline heydays.

But thanks to the MarketingGods, EVERYTHING in the friggin' commercial universe is branded, trademarked and promoted up the Yin-Yang! And whenever money is to be made, legal battle lines are drawn to protect or defeat the investors.

Maybe Prince was on the right track for a (short) while when he tried re-branding himself as a glyph with no name.

The typeface formerly known as "Leporello" by Chris Lozos

paul d hunt's picture

From this thread:
How do i Copyright/Trademark Typeface Names

if you care to, please explain your rationale.

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