Patents, Tradenames and Copyrights
|November 14, 2013 at 10:44 PM #5206|
Disclaimer: THP is not a law practice! The information presented below is compiled from personal observation of 19th-century patents for type designs, duplication and changing of tradenames, and recent copyright regulations. For definitive advice, please consult an attorney specializing in Intellectual Property Rights.
Revivals pose special issues for font developers. The first two involve the US Patent and Trademark Office (and its counterparts abroad):
Design Patents. The first US design patent was issued in 1842 to George Bruce, who had personally designed and cut a collection of scripts and related ornaments. Until 1861, rights expired after seven years.¹ Thereafter, the applicant chose a term of 3.5, 7 or 14 years (depending on the fee paid²). Once it expires, it cannot be renewed and the design becomes “public domain.”
All patents including design patents (administered by a special USPTO branch) expire for a specific reason with a centuries-old precedent: to encourage citizens to improve the invention.
Tradenames. Type tradenames (trademarks) are UNRELATED to specific typefaces. The owner may assign it to any font. Unlike design patents, tradename rights may be renewed indefinitely by timely payment of fees.
Before deciding on the tradename for your revival, it is wise to “google” it in case someone else chose it first. The FontLab “Information” dialog presents a button labeled “Check at MyFonts.” It links to a search of tradenames in use there.
Copyrights. Copyrights are administered by the US Library of Congress (and its counterparts abroad). They identify who may exercise the right to copy a creative work. This right is automatically conferred exclusively to the author or, if work for hire (more below), the author’s employer or client. Infringement complaints are much easier to prosecute if the copyright is registered.
Work for Hire. Copyrights conferred to authors in the course of employment are automatically transferred to the employer or client.
¹Ladas & Parry, LLC (Multiple US Cities): A Brief History of the Patent Law of the United States.
Continue to FontLab screenshots and instructions for “built-in” information about the original design and the revival.
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