I asked myself that question and started doing some research.
Caution! I have NO legal training.
At present, I can only address US Law.
There are two separate Areas, Patent Law, and Intellectual Property Law.
Fonts belong in the latter.
If you have a great idea, then build models and prototypes until you get it functioning, pay a patent attorney, and finally get it patented, the government allows you 20 years head start on your competition before cutting loose “the dogs of war,” and the idea becomes Public Domain.
U.S. Code TITLE 35
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/ ... 01_35.html
If you have a great idea and write a book or a song or design a font, Intellectual Property was allowed an additional 8 years. Fonts, books, and music used to have 28 years before becoming public domain, but then Big Music got it’s fingers into the pie in 1963.TITLE 35 PATENTS> PART II > CHAPTER 14 > § 154 Prev | Next
§ 154. Contents and term of patent; provisional rights
(a) In General.—
(1) Contents.— Every patent shall contain a short title of the invention and a grant to the patentee, his heirs or assigns, of the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States, and, if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process, referring to the specification for the particulars thereof.
(2) Term.— Subject to the payment of fees under this title, such grant shall be for a term beginning on the date on which the patent issues and ending 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, if the application contains a specific reference to an earlier filed application or applications under section 120, 121, or 365 (c) of this title, from the date on which the earliest such application was filed.
Then everything changed again with the 1976 Copyright Act.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... ct_of_1976
When does US Intellectual Property pass into the Public Domain today?
There is a great chart at:
The Chart shows when the laws changed.
Basically, all Font or Type Face Designs published prior to 1923
are now in the Public Domain. This includes most typefaces, as most were designed long before 1923.
Individual companies have rights to THEIR individual new electronic impression (Revival) of the OLD original typeface,
but not to the design itself.
That is why Apple, Adobe, Bitstream, Corel, IBM, Microsoft, etc. each has their version of the major typefaces, and are NOT sueing each other. You are also allowed to make YOUR new revival working from the original designs, but not to steal modern representations of it.
Those published between 1923 to 1963 when published With Notice had 28 years from date of publication before becoming Public Domain, the last of them entering Public Domain in 1991.
Those designed in 1964 to 1976 could be renewed for an additional 47 years.
That was extended for another 20 years in 1977, for a total renewal of 67 years.
This now extends to 70 years beyond the death of the individual who designed the Font regardless of when it was published.
So if a designer died in 2000, all his works will become Public Domain in 2070.
Somehow, all this sounds unfair to those who go to all the trouble of getting Patents.
Why not forget the Patent office, and just declare everything Intellectual Property? That would be a far cheaper and longer lasting path!