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Narkis and Koren win against Microsoft

Reporting on a court decision in 2010 that pitted famous (now deceased) Hebrew type designers Zvi Narkiss (or Narkis) and Eliyahu Koren (via Masterfont and Zvika Rosenberg, who digitized the typefaces) against Microsoft. Before I quote from Nurit Roth's piece, note that Microsoft [allegedly] argued that fonts cannot be copyrighted, because they are "designs". Interestingly, the Israeli judge decided that fonts can be copyrighted, and ruled in favor of the estates of Narkiss and Koren. On Microsoft's web page, we read though that Narkisim, Narkiss's font used by Microsoft, is in the copyright of Microsoft---how can they have it both ways?

Quoting Roth: International software giant Microsoft must receive permission to use Hebrew fonts that were created by groundbreaking Israeli graphic artists during the middle of the last century, the Petah Tikva District Court ruled last week. The fonts, which were created by Zvi Narkis and Eliyahu Koren, are not in the public domain, as Microsoft tried to argue, the court ruled. It said the software giant needs permission from the font makers' estates to use their work. The ruling comes in response to two suits filed by Narkis and by Koren's estates against Microsoft in 2008. The suits alleged that Microsoft was violating the creators' copyrights by including the two men's fonts, named Narkis and Koren respectively, in its Windows operating system in Hebrew. Narkis died two months ago. His eponymous font is the most popular Hebrew sans serif typeface. When it was developed in the 1950s, it was groundbreaking due to its contemporary appearance, as well as the fact that it was the first Hebrew font family with coordinated fonts for different uses, such as headlines, body text and bolded text. Microsoft argued that its use of the font was acceptable, because they had entered the public domain, and therefore were no longer protected intellectual property. Indeed, Microsoft argued against the entire system of copywriting fonts: Fonts cannot be copyrighted; they should be considered designs, Microsoft argued. Designs of objects are protected by law for 15 years in Israel. Judge Ofer Grosskopf sided with the designers' estates, and ruled that fonts are protected by copyright and not design law. He ordered Microsoft to pay them NIS 50,000 in expenses.

There is a very legalistic and analytic article by Israeli patent attorney Michael Factor. Excerpts: Microsoft's defence was that the correct form of protection for typefaces is design registration. Since copyright and design are mutually exclusive, type typefaces are not copyright protected. No design registrations were filed and even had they been, they would have lapsed 15 years after filing. Consequently, the fonts are in the public domain. The moral right of the creators is acknowledged as the fonts bear their name. If copyright protected, the protection would last for life of creator + 70 years and the owners could prevent Microsoft using the proprietary fonts, or could demand a royalty. [...] Citing the New Copyright Law 2007, Judge Gruschkopf ruled that legislation in Israel Law prevents something registerable as a design being also protected by copyright. Essentially Section 4 of the New Copyright Law extends Copyright to original artistic works and section 7 excludes designs as covered by the Patents and designs Ordinance, unless not intended as objects of manufacture.

In July 2012, a district court in Israel held that the inclusion of Guttman Keren in Microsoft's Office Suite violated the plaintiffs' rights in the font Koren, designed by Eliyahu Koren. Read the decision in Hebrew here and here.

Narkis and Koren win against Microsoft
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David and Goliath ⦿ Hebrew font links ⦿

file name: Microsoft Narkisim 1992

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html