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Imagine a logo that uses only a few characters from a font… or more exactly, the vector outlines of a few characters (between 2 and 4) from a font. What are the licensing requirements for commercial use of such a work?

This differs from the more general case in that I'm not really using it for typesetting text, but rather the outlines of a few characters. But, legally speaking, is that in any way different?

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There is no real difference. You are only using different techniques to reproduce the typeface's glyphs. It's the reproduced result which is the legal focus, not the technique used to reproduce it.

What requirements exists depends on the font and the author (you find free fonts that you can use commercially, and others that comes with a very strict license). I would recommend that you check the requirements for the font you want to use. Also see if you find similar alternatives if the font you want to use doesn't allow usage in logos and so forth.

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If it's a licensed typeface, then you'll need a license to use it to create the logo. Once the logo is created, most type licenses allow you use it in the logo from the get-go. Some foundries, however, may have specific clauses. For instance, House Industries has some caveats if the logo is going to be used for a rather large corporation.

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