I have professional experience at designing typefaces dating back forty years, and I recently designed a new kind of typeface for which I wrote a small user's guide which essentially describes the keystrokes required to type each character. To protect my work from being pirated I tried to get the book & typeface copyright and the copyright office told me I can get the book copyrighted but not the typeface. There HAS to be a way for a typeface designer to protect his work, but I don't know what it is & am trying to find out.

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    If it happens that your creation is based on a technical principle you can patent the principle. You do not have that possibility if you already have let that principle become public . If your principle is valuable an army of engineers and lawyers will be ordered to find a way how to make the same without paying a single penny to you. Nothing special is needed if you do not have some force (=$1000000000,-) behind you. Know that billions of people live in countries where western laws and habits have no value. People buy what looks good and businessmen deliver. Original creators get nothing.
    – user82991
    Sep 23, 2020 at 8:24
  • @user287001 i doubt the process is patentable either way. For it to be patentable it has to be novel as in nobody ever did anytrhing similar. Patenting is expensive because you need proof of this, and you need that poof in all countries separately (for example method patents are not available in Europe in the same way as US). And if there is similar stuff available then your patent is only a very tiny subset... On the other hand a patent is way stronger than copyright, it applies to the method, so it kills even other fonts with similar method even if they look different.
    – joojaa
    Sep 23, 2020 at 9:04
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    This sounds like a legal question, and these are off-topic here. Sorry about that. Different laws apply in different countries regarding typeface copyright, versus font software copyright. You should check with a legal professional.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 23, 2020 at 9:21
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    Are you sure that what you have is a typeface? As far as I know, a typeface is a collection of shapes of letters and other characters. By definition, a typeface doesn't have "the keystrokes required to type each character," and it would be bizarre for a typeface to have a user's guide. On the other hand, it would make total sense for a computer font to have a user's guide and keystrokes for each character. Computer fonts are not typefaces and the law treats them differently. So what are you really asking about: a typeface, a computer font, or something else? Sep 23, 2020 at 17:09
  • @TannerSwett only if its a normal typeface. There are special typefaces that do stuff like barcodes and for example tolkiens elvish. So you could use joining diatrics for agumeting look and feel of font or layer same font over each other and make multitexture fonts etc. Does not happen a lot in english, but it does happen in some handwriting style fonts.
    – joojaa
    Sep 23, 2020 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


There is no technical way to protect the typeface. So law is the only thing that is protecting you. The font program itself (the OTF file) is protected by copyright but the resulting marks are not according to US law. This differs a bit in say Germany where even the result can be copyright too. Though realistically you can't confine yourself only to some country.

Realistically you can not avoid piracy either, even with legal right. Don't spend time on thinking about that.

Copyright is not a inalienable right. Although it feels so to you. There are entire industries that are in no way or shape eligible to copyright. Physical objects and fashion do not have copyright at all. So imagine coming up with a revolutionary new clothes, nope anybody can copy. So there is no reason something HAS to happen.

(I've always wondered why logically I as a mechanical engineer don't get copyright on a technical drawing while a architect will? And why did I previously have to pay a copyright levy for copying my own drawing that has no copyright. But the answer is a bit banal: Legal constructs don't have to make sense!)


Forgetting about copyright and legal measures, I think people will have the intention to pirate a typeface as a last resort. In fact, I have first hand experience with this. My team and I were working on a web-app, it wasn't in English. We found this typeface that was perfect for our platform. The problem is, since only few quality typefaces existed at the time; the seller decided to set an astronomical price for it. We saw many websites using the typeface (since nothing else was around) and there was no way all of them were paying that rate. It was in the thousands of dollars. We asked around and we found out that it wasn't the "exact" same typeface (even though it was). It was a version that this Indian company had made. Different name, different copyright, different everything. And most importantly 1/1000th of the price (literally). We bought it. 2 months later we received a cease and desist letter from the local company that was responsible for the original typeface. We sent them the license for the pirated version we were using, the receipts for the payments. We even had the Indian company attest the legitimacy of their license. The local firm withdrew their claims. Any corporation/team/individual goes into things with good intentions. The truth of the matter is, I wasn't looking for a cheap typeface, I would have loved to have paid the artist. But I wasn't looking to be taken advantage of either. I think the power is in your own hands to decide over your typeface. As long as people don't feel taken advantage of. They wont feel the necessity to take advantage of your work.

Although this is a controversial answer, it is my impression that many share this experience and these opinions. Both locally and internationally in the app dev/web dev communities.

p.s we did make donations in the end to the creator of the original font directly (bypassing the problematic middleman company).

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