Similar Names and Trademarks?

Choz Cunningham's picture

One of the most agonizing yet fun parts of creating a font, to me, is the naming. Usually, it is one of the last steps taken. After deciding on a name, I found a font from Linotype that is virtually identical to the family name I chose. Of course, it seems like a very generic word to me, but they claim a trademark in unnamed jurisdictions.

Is this important? Is it considered immoral in the comunity, or unimportant? Is it simply unwise to choose such a similar name when it's a major foundry owning the other font? I see each font as a work of art, and feel that the name should be whatever is appropriate like a book or painting. However, to many I am certain this is a business first, and I'm not in the mood to step on the toes of giants (or regular Joes) needlessly.

To note, the fonts are in no way visually similar, and the word in question is a common word, used as the first half of the name of a trio of faces in my project, and as the sole name of the Linotype font. I look forward to your thoughts on this. Thank you all.

ben_archer's picture

If they claim trademark, then they will have spent money registering the name and may be likely to act in order to protect their investment (read; they'll see you in court for infringement). I don't know how the big foundries worked it out between each other historically, because this is one of the continuing refrains of type development. Lots of faces got the same name, only distinguished by the foundry appellation (ie. ATF Garamond, Monotype Garamond). From my own research I know of one name (a generic noun), common to three typefaces, all visually distinct from each other – one by T-26 in 1999, one by Linotype in 2000 and one by Bauer in 1934.

A couple of suggestions to get around this. Can you spell it differently to the Linotype name? Or hyphenate it to form a compound name with either the second half of your trio name or the weight? Or put your own foundry name in front of it. All of these have established precedents.

Si_Daniels's picture

Well, the fact that you went ahead and asked them, and the fact that you've posted their response here suggests that you don't have very good legal advice or that you've chosen to ignore it. Pick another name and move on.

Choz Cunningham's picture

I am aware that American font copyright policy is actually more liberal than many other developed nations, but the articles on the subject I've found so far aren't as thorough as those on other mediums, which each have thier own nuances.

Ben -
All !Exclamachine fonts have a '!' before them, which I intend as a icon or ideograph to represent the foundry name in it's most abbreviated sense. So, Lino's font would be (like) "Bob™", and mine would be (like) "!Bob Lob". Seems different enough to me, especially if Linotype has been on the opposite end of this situation. And meets two of the suggested ideas, sorta.

That thing about all those same-name/same-art fonts from different foundries I've always wondered about. I guessed they were all rip-offs of typefaces created before our current age of infinite copyrights?


That's a bit gruff. I haven't asked Linotype anything at all. When checking for similar names, I came across the font family page for the face in question. It had the bottom-of-page notice, " '...’ is a trademark of Linotype GmbH which may be registered in certain jurisdictions." (Emph. added.) I thought I would get the impressions of a mixture of enthusiasts and professionals.

I do not have a specialized IP Lawyer in my budget at this time. Currently, I make and give away free fonts at my own expense, primarly for the glamour and the fun.

Choz Cunningham
!Exclamachine Type Foundry

Uli's picture

> is a trademark of Linotype GmbH which may be registered in certain jurisdictions.”

The phrase "X is a trademark of Y which MAY be registered" is used to trick gullible font buyers.

In the funny font forging industry, it even happens that two or more font forgers slap the same trademark on two or more font forgeries.

Example: Look at the two forgeries of the font Candida depicted on page 11 in the "Slab" section of the new FontBook 2006. For your convenience, I uploaded a scan:

Both font forgeries of Candida are provided with the "TM" (= trademark) claim, so both font forgers make gullible font buyers believe that they "own" the same identical "trademark". Since the editors of the FontBook did not disclose the names of the font forgers, you will have to act as a private detective to find out who made which forgery.

A lawsuit would be most funny, for both font forgers would claim at court to be the "owner" of the same "trademark" slapped on their forgeries of a font which they never designed.

dan_reynolds's picture

Choz, the best way to find out whether or not your font's name would be too close to an existing trademark would be to contact the trademark holder. I work for Linotype, and I'm sure that we would be able to answer your question directly, one way or another.

Please contact us by e-mail at

Choz Cunningham's picture

Unfortunately, Linotype, I assume, must be motivated to err on the side of caution, and should, rightfully, be biased towards their own interests.

I brought this discussion here specifically to find out the type community's point of view, morally even more than legally.

The existing piles and piles of shared and "Trademarked" fonts that clone each other's names and forms, and the fact that it seems to be accepted by the community tells me that it would likely not be a problem at all, from an ethical standpoint.

Meanwehile, I've decided, in this situation, that the existing font is "too famous". When I create a face, one thing I like is a "freedom from connotation" since no media has used it before. Likewise, I do not want to seem to attach myself to an existing type designer's works. So, I will be finding a new name.

Time to go surfing the net again... Thank you all for your time and input on this, it has been very insightful.

Choz Cunningham
!Exclamachine Type Foundry

Si_Daniels's picture

>That’s a bit gruff.

Sorry some friends were mauled by a group of bears earlier in the day so I was in a bad mood. And I misread your post. :-( Anyway seems like the pick another name strategy would be best.

Choz Cunningham's picture

Youch. What and odd, but lousy thing! Hope they end up okay.

The pick another name strategy has won, for different reasons than I imagined. Since Linotype can't market themselves without sharing/borrowing the names of others' fonts, I'm not too worried. Besides, my pockets are of no fascination to any lawyer on earth, and it would end up a PR fiasco. Nevertheless, I want to make my own name in type design, and not even appear to ride the shoulders of others.

The upcoming font is now dubbed "!Square Engine". I'll post a release in a few days, after I get the final bits jsut so. I hope anybody out there enjoys it anywhere near as much as I do. I suspect that most 'philes are not into what I'm doing, but, hey, someone might.

Choz Cunningham
!Exclamachine Type Foundry
|\/|O D S 4 L 3 T T 0 R Z

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