How do you protect your font?

-Rudy-'s picture

Copyright registration? Registration as a Trademark? There are several ways to protect your font from infringement. I know a few, but I was wondering if there were more methods of protection that I don't know of. So now my question: in what ways do you protect your font?

dezcom's picture

Other than hiring the Sopranos to "collect" on infringement, I don't know what you can do beyond getting a good EULA written. Enforcement is tough unless you "got people".

ChrisL

-Rudy-'s picture

The Sopranos, that would be a good idea ;) But I'm looking for a more friendlier approach, something new like the guy that came up with the "poor man's copyright".
A well written EULA is a good start. But I'm looking for a method by which you can show that you were the first one that made the font.

Rudy

blank's picture

Are you looking for methods specific to the USA, to the EU, or to the Netherlands?

-Rudy-'s picture

USA, cause the methods in the EU and the Netherlands are pretty much the same as in the USA (except for copyright).

I'm curious in what people do to protect their typeface when they finish (or maybe before they finish) it and want to make it public. I maybe already know all the methods, I was just wondering if there were any more good ideas out there that I didn't heard of ;)

Rudy

rob keller's picture

I think there is some legal backing behind "publicized" documents, as in published material available to the public – but I don't know how one would make claims on this. Also, there were comments floating around the Linotype offices (applicable to German law, if any) that the design needed to be registered (you can copyright designs in Germany, not in the US) no more than 6 months after the first public showing... whatever that means.

All the big font guys care much much more about the font's name trademarks than the designs themselves. It is really really difficult to protect and enforce a design, but the names are straightforward.

I have a quite safe method of protecting fonts, and have never had a stolen one to date... My policy is to simply to never finish or release anything. I will need to rethink my strategy soon though...

Good luck.

r.k

dezcom's picture

"...My policy is to simply to never finish or release anything. I will need to rethink my strategy soon though..."

Rob,

I am quite familiar with that policy and suffer financially because of it :-)

ChrisL

rob keller's picture

same here Chris

-Rudy-'s picture

You can copyright everything in the USA, except Typefaces, who had that smart idea? I guess he couldn't read, so it wasn't that important to him :P
Anyways, that policy of yours Rob, won't last that long with me anymore I'm afraid, we have to come up with something new ;)

Rudy

paragraph's picture

Chris, I release everything, and still suffer financially :o|

gohebrew's picture

I believe even typeface software code can be copyright in the US, but not the design, as that is not a "verbal expression". One can register the font design as a design patent, but it is a bit complicated regarding what to submit.

With the advent of PostScript, TrueType, OpenType etc., the restrictions in the USA regarding the copyright of fonts is no longer denied, as when font bitmap software was considered "mere digital data".

Perhaps, protect refers to physical protection or copy protection, which is another topic. At this time, such a thing is possible on Windows (perhaps, also on Mac), but no one does this.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Basically, there are three things you can do:

1) Register the name as a trademark.

2) Copyright the font software (the digital code).

3) Possibly get a design patent on the design. Not actually that complicated.

The most important thing to do is actually to make sure you're not infringing somebody else's trademarked name. And, to avoid confusion, not overlapping too much even with a non-trademarked name. You don't want to have to change the name after you start shipping it....

Cheers,

T

-Rudy-'s picture

Thanks Thomas.

I have a few questions about 2)
How does one copyright the font software? Copy the code and paste it in the registration of the Copyright Office? How do you subtract the code from the font?

Is it worth the time to copyright the code if it doesn't protect the design (the most important part of a font)?

Rudy

Thomas Phinney's picture

Usual disclaimer about me not being a lawyer, and how you should consult one for legal advice.

How does one copyright the font software? Copy the code and paste it in the registration of the Copyright Office? How do you subtract the code from the font?

First, you have copyright simply by virtue of authoring it. However, in the USA *registering* your copyright allows you the possibility of collecting triple the actual damages, as well as fixed awards for each infringement. Without that, you're limited to "actual damages."

To register the copyright, you'd need a meaningful text representation of the font code. For a Type 1 font, I'd go with a decrypted version of an ASCII Type 1 font (also called a ".pfa" or Unix Type 1 font). For TTF or OTF you could dump it with TTX or something like that.

Is it worth the time to copyright the code if it doesn’t protect the design (the most important part of a font)?

The code isn't the most important thing, but it's the most commonly and most easily pirated. My personal opinion is that as an independent type designer I'll certainly register the copyrights for my designs. It's really cheap (like $35 using the online registration).

Design patent is trickier because although it's clearly valuable (in the US, anyway), it's extremely expensive. Even with the discount for being a "small entity" it looks like it's something like $660 up front and another $3800 or so divided into installments at 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years (though mostly rear-end loaded, so you could let it lapse if the font wasn't doing well). That's per font, so if your type family consists of, say, a whole series of fonts... dang, that could really chew up a big chunk (or all) of your profits. I don't know that it makes sense for most type designers and foundries.

Cheers,

T

gohebrew's picture

Regarding copyright registration at the US Copyright Office (you can do it online, as Thomas said), I did a registration for a large collection of fonts at a single price (like for one font), as an author registers copyright for a collection of short stories in a book.

I made a sale to a customer (it could be just a cousin) in another state and mailed him or her my font product. That way it was dated by the post office. This is called "interstate commerce", and activates the copyright.

Thomas said that the mere act of authoring or creating it is "unregistered" copyright. I believe that "interstate commerce" is also necessary, but I may be wrong. As Thomas warned, I'm not an attorney either.

Linotype I know applies for a design patent for many of their fonts, but most type foundries don't bother.

Thomas Phinney's picture

As I understand it, interstate commerce is not relevant here.

"Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."
- US Copyright Office
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#mywork

Now, ability to prove when you created something might be helpful in terms of establishing the priority of your claim to authorship, in the event of a conflict. AFAIK, that's why people sometimes mail *to themselves* a copy of a copyrighted work, so they have a sealed envelope with a postmark on it.

I didn't know that Linotype had started applying for design patents; that would be relatively new on their part, I think. Last I knew, Adobe was the only type foundry that routinely did so.

Cheers,

T

Thomas Phinney's picture

More from the US Copyright Office:

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works. http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#cr http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ38b.pdf

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

(I'm understanding that to mean that it creates no extra protections under the law; of course you already had copyright at the time of authoring.)

gohebrew's picture

In the very early nineties, I was invited to Linotype in Haupage, Long Island, New York to meet with a designer for Linotype Germany. It was a fascinating meeting, and Linotype USA host showed interesting enlargements of Times-Roman at different sizes from the days of hot type, where Times-Roman 8, 9, 10, and 12 had different widths, particularly for the m and w.

Afterwards, I was given a tour of the type department production studio, where artists were working on very large architectural drawings of each letter belonging to many fonts. It was explained that these drawings were for submission to the US Patent Office.

The drawings were very detailed with lots of measurements besides basic letter designs. This is why I described it as complicated. Today, Fontographer can instantly print each character in this manner with a few keystrokes.

I don't recall why interstate commerse was an issue back in 1989. Perhaps, it was unnecessary, as Thomas states.

Btw, what were the names of the three print/type professors at RIT? One of them was really into promoting a new encoding system, before Unicode was accepted by all. Another knew well the history and use of paper. He claimed that serifs were invented to control ink spread. I think that Frederik Goudy would argue!

-Rudy-'s picture

To register the copyright, you’d need a meaningful text representation of the font code. For a Type 1 font, I’d go with a decrypted version of an ASCII Type 1 font (also called a “.pfa” or Unix Type 1 font). For TTF or OTF you could dump it with TTX or something like that.

I managed to generate a .pfa file, but I realy have no idea how to decrypt it and make it representable for copyright registration. I also don't know how to make a TTX file, I'm a designer you know not a programmer ;-)

Rudy

Rob O. Font's picture

"It was explained that these [1970's (?) Linotype] drawings were for submission to the US Patent Office."
Well, lol, that's one way of stopping visitors from copying right off the drawing board.
And... font patents are not 'tricky' as a result of cost but rather from the PO's definition of them for fonts.

Cheers!

kentlew's picture

Interstate commerce is usually a requisite for registering a trademark, not a copyright.

The "complicated" drawings made by the Linotype drawing offices were created because they were a prerequisite for making the brass matrices -- this is back when font manufacture was a precise engineering and machining process requiring extreme accuracy and fine tolerances. They may or may not have been subsequently submitted to the US Patent Office, but that was not their primary raison d'être.

gohebrew's picture

What are brass matrices? It was after the days of metal type.

I recall that when I created typeface designs in Thai for Smith-Corona to be used for typewriters in Thailand, I had to prepare similar drawings, so Smith-Corona could cut them into metal.

If I recall correctly, the interstate commerce was in deed for trademark of the company logo. But it was for before actual registration. For the application.

In older versions of Fontographer, one could generate a text file of the font in type 3 format. It may still be possible in newer versions, but I am not sure. You simply click on ASCII in the print menu. Perhaps, FontLab has a similar option, too.

nina's picture

"To register the copyright, you’d need a meaningful text representation of the font code"

I apologize if this is a stupid question, but would something like UFO qualify?
Or am I misunderstanding what "font code" is?

Mark Simonson's picture

I also don’t know how to make a TTX file, I’m a designer you know not a programmer ;-)

I use the Mac version of TTX and it's dead simple to make a .ttx file. I imagine the Windows version is similar. No programming needed.

http://www.letterror.com/code/ttx/

You just drag a .otf or .ttf font onto the TTX app icon and in a matter of seconds you have a .ttx version of the font. That's it.

(You can also do a lot more than make .ttx files with TTX, especially if you use it from the command line.)

Mark Simonson's picture

I don't think UFO would work since it's actually a collection of XML files (one file for each glyph, etc.), not a single file. It looks like a single file (on the Mac at least) but it's not.

nina's picture

"[UFO] looks like a single file (on the Mac at least) but it’s not"

Ha. Thanks for the clarification!

kentlew's picture

> What are brass matrices? It was after the days of metal type.

Brass matrices were Mergenthaler Linotype Co.'s stock in trade.

I realize that the date you said you visited was past the prime of metal and into the decline of the U.S. Linotype company. But the practices and standards for those drawings were established ca. 1920s under the direction C.H. Griffith for manufacture of metal type. And I believe they changed little for producing phototype and right on up until they were being marked up with plotting data for Ikarus digization.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Btw, what were the names of the three print/type professors at RIT? One of them was really into promoting a new encoding system, before Unicode was accepted by all. Another knew well the history and use of paper. He claimed that serifs were invented to control ink spread. I think that Frederik Goudy would argue!

RIT has had a lot of print/type professors over the years. But some of the more prominent from way back have been Alexander Lawson (author of Anatomy of a Typeface), Frank Romano (print industry analyst), and Archie Provan (Archie was active in the AFII standard for glyph cataloging). Archie was my thesis advisor.

More recently, Chuck Bigelow (co-designer of the Lucida meta-series of typefaces) has been teaching at RIT.

Cheers,

T

(edited to correct a bit about Frank Romano)

dezcom's picture

I know Frank Romano! Years ago he asked me to do a presentation at a Quark XPress conference in NYC.

ChrisL

gohebrew's picture

right on up until they were being marked up with plotting data for Ikarus digization.

I recall that they said that they used Ikarus and not Fontographer. When I visited Adobe (Systems) earlier in Palo Alto (not San Jose), they also said that they rejected Fontographer as their type tool. Nearby Apple (Cupertino) said that they used their own tools, and smiled (like they had the upper hand).

Btw, TrueType was version 1 then, but they had version 2 already ready to ship, and version 3 was in the works. It was brilliant! Basically, it allowed a group of type elements to be defined, and then used them as references to make up letters. It totally redefined type and fonts. Version 3 was never released. Right?

gohebrew's picture

It was Archie Proven, a really nice person with a great sense of humor - he was the type/print professor.

The paper prof. was in another building, I think for imaging. RIT then worked closely with the CIA. He showed me a poster/map of Israel, with hot spots/red dots indicating nuclear weapons scattered all over Israel. I was amazed. He bragged that it was produced from RIT imaging technology that photographed two images of the landscape from 45 degree angles, and by doing so it could derive objects beneath the surface.

He commented that they were using the very same technology to "dig" beneath the dirt covering the Dead Sea Scrolls. What was the name of that guy?

I brought an early 19th century volume of Talmud to show him. He handled it very carefully, like a rare Egyptian vase. He explained that it was printed on the finest paper from Czarist Russia in those days. He pointed out that it didn't have the typical waterprint from Czarist government, indicating that it was "bootleg". Taxes were never paid by the paper manufacturers to the government for it, like most paper. This was because they gave the paper, and didn't sell it (paper is the largest expense in printing; afterwards is typesetting and the actual printing - the Talmud publisher went bankrupt before they completed typesetting the Talmud, and needed the paper to be donated, worth over a million dollars). Interestingly, I am a descendant of those paper manufacturers.

Frank Romano wasn't there.

RIT also had a great type library, and a very fine librarian from Brooklyn. Do you know his name?

gohebrew's picture

Is Archie's AFII used anymore?

Thomas Phinney's picture

Is Archie’s AFII used anymore?

Not really. The only place I still see it is in the glyph naming Adobe first used for Cyrillic, which they may finally be moving away from, last I recall (in favor of uniXXXX names).

@goHebrew:

Lots of folks involved in imaging science at RIT, but the one most associated with the Dead Sea scrolls would probably be Robert Johnston.

The Melbert B Cary Jr Graphic Arts Collection, a.k.a. "the Cary library," at RIT is is a world-class library devoted to the history of books and typography. Some pretty amazing stuff there. David Pankow has been the head of the Cary library since 1979. Not sure who it was before him, offhand. I worked with David for 5-10 hours a week as a grad assistant while I was at RIT, thanks to the Lawson fellowship.

Cheers,

T

-Rudy-'s picture

I use the Mac version of TTX and it’s dead simple to make a .ttx file. I imagine the Windows version is similar. No programming needed.

http://www.letterror.com/code/ttx/

Thanks Mark. You can just paste the code into the copyright registration or do you need to upload the .ttx file or paste the code in a .txt file and upload that?

Rudy

Jens Kutilek's picture

Mark: I don’t think UFO would work since it’s actually a collection of XML files

I'm not sure this would rule out UFO, because all but the most simple computer programs consist of more than one source code file. But perhaps it might be a problem that a UFO may not be a sufficient representation of a font, e.g. you can't store TT instructions in a standardized way inside a UFO.

TTX would be a better choice, also because it's easier to compile a working font from a TTX file than from a UFO.

abattis's picture

IMO, UFOs qualify as "font software" in the USA because it is the digital representation of the typeface that the "Adobe v SSI" case established as subject to copyright. The judge said something like 'there is some creativity in placing bezier points when tracing a design from a paper model and so the points are subject to copyright' - if these outlines are SVG or UFO data, or a LOGO or python or C program, makes no difference.

The law is about what people do, not about the fine details of how they do it, basically.

I am not a lawyer :)

Mark Simonson's picture

You can just paste the code into the copyright registration or do you need to upload the .ttx file or paste the code in a .txt file and upload that?

I don't know. My lawyer has always done it for me.

abattis:

You're probably right about the legal standing of UFO. I meant that for practical purposes I don't think it wouldn't be as simple to deal with as TTX.

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