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GoPro® v. PRO-Mounts® - Can a Corporation Claim Exclusive Ownership of a Free Font?
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Corporations have a valid reason to exert ownership of their copyrights and other intellectual property, but sometimes - with their large legal funds and byzantine executive structures - they can get out of control and dip into depths of absurdity that would fit right in to a Terry Gilliam movie or a Joseph Heller novel. PRO-Mounts, represented by DeWitty and Associates, has found itself in such a chasm.
This latest claim that defies common sense was launched by action camera giant GoPro®, worth around $1.2 billion, against a small, independently-owned Dutch company called PRO-Mounts® which makes camera accessories such as helmet mounts, bike mounts, batteries and cases. So what's the problem? One of GoPro's claims is that only they can use a free typeface called Neuropol X, created in 1996 by designer Ray Larabie. In fact, Larabie's license agreement for the font makes it explicitly clear that it is free for commercial use, including specific uses such as "art, sign, poster, business card, logo, trademarked logo."
"The font is available to anyone to use, GoPro does not own it," said PRO-Mounts founder and president Mike Reed. "We are completely within the bounds of the license agreement for the typeface."
The case has echoes of some other ridiculous corporate ownership claims.
For example, in 2007, multinational fast food giant KFC sued a small, family-owned pub, the Tan Hill Inn, in Great Britain, claiming they owned exclusive ownership of the phrase "Family Feast" which the pub had the audacity to use on their annual Christmas menu. After a wave of negative press, KFC backed down and issued an apology.
In the 1980 case of Häagen-Dazs, Inc. v. Frusen Glädjé Ltd., it was determined that Häagen-Dazs (a made-up Scandinavian word) could not claim ownership over the idea of a fresh, Scandinavian image, nor could it stop Frusen Glädjé (a real Swedish phrase meaning "frozen joy") from using a Scandinavian product name, using a map of Scandinavia on its packaging, nor prominently displaying its product's natural ingredients on the package, as Häagen-Dazs did. The court's written opinion of the case declared that the difference between the two products was apparent "to all but the most obtuse consumer."
"Obtuse - that's the right word," said intellectual property attorney Robert DeWitty, who was retained by PRO-Mounts to fight against the suit. "Someone would have to be quite obtuse to confuse a giant like GoPro who makes cameras and drones with a small aftermarket accessory maker. We feel very confident about our position."
CONTACT: Morgan Sills, 202-457-0870, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE DeWitty and Associates
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