Prosecution of font piracy successful! – June, 2000

Linotype Library font house taking a stand against font piracy.
Courts endorse the protection of familiar font names and designs against imitation by software pirates


As a subsidiary of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, Linotype GmbH markets the extensive and famous Linotype font library, including the creations of the D. Stempel AG and Haas type foundries, which encompass numerous, now famous fonts by artists of international repute, like Adrian Frutiger and Professor Hermann Zapf. The company has made every effort to protect its intellectual property in recent years, even by going to court when necessary.Its success is evident:far fewer "pirate fonts" come out on the German market these days than in previous years and the company is now also taking advantage of the opportunity to take more effective action against violations of its rights in neighbouring countries and on the Internet.

In Great Britain, for example, relatively new font designs have enjoyed copyright protection for several years now, while courts in the USA have recently started to treat the computer programs used to produce sophisticated digitisations of the font originals as copyrightable intellectual property of the companies that developed them (frequently at great expense).

Nevertheless, computer stores and mail-order offers in magazines or on the Internet still repeatedly sell famous, "classical" fonts in font collections on CD-ROM at give-away prices that do not include any licence fees for the font artists who designed them or the companies that produced the high-quality digitisations in their studios. Common fonts are not subject to copyright protection in Germany (or most other countries), and it is only since 1981 that the design of fonts created after that time has been protectable at all by filing a special registered design with the German Patent Office.However, "evergreens" created prior to this date are excluded from this protection. For these fonts, only the protection of the brand name under which the fonts are known on the market has any practical significance.

After the sellers of plagiarised fonts repeatedly tried to represent the names of famous fonts, such as HELVETICA™, as being "generic names", whose use must be open to everyone, the Regional and Regional Appeal Courts of Frankfurt recently ruled against a chain store in the electronics industry, confirming that names such as HELVETICA™, UNIVERS™ and PALATINO™, and roughly a dozen others, enjoy brand name protection and may only be used by the licence holder and his licensees to designate their fonts.

This Anti-Piracy Initiative of Linotype Library was supported by the action taken by the BSA (Business Software Alliance – an association against violations of software copyrights). In spring, the BSA moved the Regional Court of Cologne to rule that in fonts integrated computerprograms are also subject to copyright protection.The BSA is currently conducting further campaigns in four urban regions in Germany to punish offences in cooperation with the public prosecutor‘s offices to contain the spread of font piracy.

Linotype GmbH, a subsidiary of the Heidelberg Group, offers one of the lar-gest font libraries of original-cut typefaces using today’s state-of-the-art technology. To date there are more than 4700 PostScript and TrueType fonts available for Mac and PC which can be optimally used by utilising the Linotype FontExplorer™, a innovative browser and navigation system. Linotype Library is organising the international trade congress for type, typography, design and media, typo[media].


Linotype GmbH – a subsidiary of the Heidelberg Group – offers one of the largest font libraries of original-cut typefaces using today’s state of the art technology.
To date there are more than 4700 PostScript and TrueType fonts available for Mac and PC and the Linotype FontExplorer, on CD or on the Internet, makes them accessible anytime, anywhere.
This press release is available as pdf file. Please download:
English version (60,1 kb)
German version (27,4 kb)