Harry Potter and the Stolen Font Lawsuit

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 14, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Harry Potter font lawsuit is the last thing anyone expected to see just days before the series' final installment hits the theaters, but just that has happened.

P22 Type Foundry, the creator of the typeface Cezanne Regular, has filed a lawsuit against NBC Universal, arguing that the company infringed upon its copyright by using the font on Potter merchandise connected to a new ride at Orlando's Universal Studios.

Wait, since when are fonts copyrightable?

The short answer is that they're not. Fonts, or typefaces, are not unto themselves copyrightable. However, computer software that renders a font is copyrightable.

What this means is that handwritten font is up for grabs, whereas computerized font, because it is software, is afforded the protections of copyright law.

Because of this distinction, the validity of the Harry Potter font lawsuit hinges on whether NBC Universal used the Cezanne Regular font software when designing merchandise.

As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, if the designers traced the font, or reproduced it in some other manner, NBC Universal technically did not use the Cezanne Regular software, and therefore did not utilize any copyrightable material.

However, if the designers used the computerized font as is, they may have breached the end-user license, which usually prohibits the use of typeface for commercial purposes.

In terms of liability, this kind of contract breach is essentially the same as copyright infringement.

Because of this very specific requirement, it's likely that the Harry Potter font lawsuit will settle quickly, allowing everyone to return to mourning the end of an era.

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