I have this doubt after read about the registered (trademarked or copyrighted, I don't know exactly) SarcMark infamous symbol for mark sarcasm in texts.

Anyone can register a symbol or the idea of the shape of a symbol (grapheme) or only can be registered a concrete typography of it (glyph in a concrete typeface)?

This symbol (grapheme) is registered as a symbol in a font (typeface), but could I create my own font which contains this same symbol (grapheme) in a different glyph form (although both forms were very similar)?

If I can, what are the real scope and aim of the registration of that symbol (glyph)? Ethical and Aesthetically, it is fair to register a symbol which is pretended to be used in communication and language, which is a fundamental part of the patrimony of the entire Mankind? What if Greeks, in order to pay his debts, decide to register their alphabet, language and word roots? I think it's absolutly ridiculous!

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a legal question, not really a design question. In general terms, ideas can not be copyrighted. Only the implementation of the idea can be.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 6:12
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    Hum, This question has the potential to be an interesting topic.
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 8:21
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    This will depend on where you live. In the US you typically can't copyright a typeface's glyph shapes. You can copyright a symbol but typically that'd be more of a trademark issue.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 12:59
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    @Fractalon, you could try asking this question on law.stackexchange.com Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 8:24
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it’s a legal question, not a graphic design question. Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


As MicroMachine has commented, you may want to look at Law beta to see if your question would be on topic there.

I am not a lawyer and the following answer has no legal value.

In 2012, i attented a conference given by a lawyer on copyright in graphic design and the same question came up. At the time, in Canada, a glyph could not be copyrighted. Only the actual software (i.e. the file containing the glyphs and its spacing, etc.) was bound by copyright.

The reasons were (and you answered your own question for that part) that it is for use in language and to the benefit of mankind.

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