Copyright, Trademark and Patents ?

ginajane's picture

While attending CHA, the Craft and Hobby Tradeshow held in Las Vegas this year, several owners and designers of online scrapbook consignment stores were discussing piracy. They are angry and frustrated with the piracy of their products.

However, during this same discussion, the owners of a leading online store stated that they could use any font as part of their digital products- papers, icons, elements, lettering, word art, etc. without fear of violating copyright laws. Their reasonig is this: Fonts are mechanical devices, and therefore cannot be protected by copyright. They suggested that fonts require a patent in order to protect them from illegal use, such as file sharing, commercial use, etc.

As a graphic designer in the digital scrapbook and clip art industry, I am very concerned about the issue of copyrights, trademarks and patents and how they apply to fonts, true type fonts, typography and type faces. Fonts and type faces are used frequently in the design of scrapbook papers, elements, ribbons, etc.

Any insight on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

paul d hunt's picture

i saw this the other day, and i think it's a step in the right direction. hopefully stuff like this will become more prevalent:

paul d hunt's picture

See also EULA.

Miss Tiffany's picture

The STOP PIRACY blog really should be seen as a bright spot. Being in Utah I am quite literally surrounded by scrapbook companies and quite a few of my friends from school have worked with them. I've heard good and bad stories about respect for fonts. I hope more scrapbookers come to respect fonts and wish success to Jenjen's blog.

ginajane's picture


Thanks for the reference to Jen's Blog. I am an acquantance of Jen's and am familiar with her blog.

I guess what I'm looking for is more information from the Font Foundry's on commercial use, licensing for commercial use, etc.

I want to protect my own interests, artwork and designers from copyright infringements of all types. In order to best serve my company and the customers that purchase our downloadable designs, I want to be able to post information about the licenses we have purchased for commercial use, as well as inform the digital community about copyright law and what constitutes an infringement.

I am confused by other graphic designer's interpretation of font EULA's. They are under the impression that they can use fonts in their graphic designs and then sell their designs online or in retail stores.

It seems clear to me that the fonts they claim can be used for commercial projects, are actually licensed only to the end user: for personal, non-commercial use. Most of them site Microsoft Word or Works as their source for fonts and claim that the EULA allows them to use Microsoft's Fonts in their commercial ventures.

After reading about fonts on Microsoft's site, I did not come to the same conclusion. Rather, I learned that Microsoft has a license agreement with many different Font Foundaries and the license they are providing is only to the end user for personal use only.

If this is the case, then none of the type faces these companies and their designers are using, and claiming to be free fonts, or shareware, can be used legally in graphic designs of papers, ribbons, elements, etc.

Each designer must purchase a commercial license agreement for the fonts and type faces they are using in their artwork.

Am I right?

*** gina jane ***

'relationships are the greatest art'

Miss Tiffany's picture


Yes. You are right. Just because a software package comes bundled with oodles of fonts, does not mean someone can use them in a project for sale which requires them to bundle the same fonts to be sold again. In general, the person who licensed the software is the only person who has the right to use the fonts.

Very few people -- a challenge to link to foundries that do -- allow for re-distribution of their fonts by the original person who licensed them.

ginajane's picture

Thanks so much for your response. It really clarifies things for me.
I want to be sure that my designers are informed and following copyright laws.


*** gina jane ***

'relationships are the greatest art'

Thomas Phinney's picture

"Their reasonig is this: Fonts are mechanical devices, and therefore cannot be protected by copyright."

Digital fonts are not mechanical devices (that's a truly absurd claim), and Type 1 digital fonts have been found in a summary judgment by US Federal District Court (Adobe vs SSI) to be protected as software, and subject to copyright law. I'll go so far as to say that if Type 1 fonts are software, then OpenType and TrueType fonts sure as heck are software too.

Most other countries in the world consider digital fonts to be protected under copyright law, and most first-world countries (notably in the EU) have considerably stronger protections for fonts than the US does.



ginajane's picture

ginajane --- “Their reasonig is this: Fonts are mechanical devices, and therefore cannot be protected by copyright.”

Thomas Phinney--- "I’ll go so far as to say that if Type 1 fonts are software, then OpenType and TrueType fonts sure as heck are software too."

Wow- I totally agree with you. We are having a similar battle with copyright laws protecting our designer's original templates of boxes, cards, wrappers, and novelty packaging. We have had customers rip off our templates alter them just slightly and claim them as their own.
Their response has been that our templates ought to be patented, however, if the original pattern is not 3-D or mechanical in nature, it is copyright protected the moment the first pencil marks are made- or the first digital pixels are placed on the canvas in Illustrator or Photoshop...etc.

I am going to forward this thread to the site owners of the infringing company. I think it will enlighten them.

Also- I want to clarify that we do not provide text in PDF files nor do we 'share' fonts or provide free fonts.

Our company has purchased commercial use licenses for hundreds of fonts in order to be sure we are not violating the EULA.

Our use of fonts is to embellish the art or graphics in our papers, and elements. The type becomes merged into the graphic. Our files are sold as a download in JPG or PNG formats.

Samples of our work can be found at my site:

*** gina jane ***

'relationships are the greatest art'

Syndicate content Syndicate content