Type stolen and lost the first stage of trial (please help)

Hello to everyone, i'm a graphic spanish designer.

Recently I knew the judgement of my personal trial with Renault, a famous french car brand, who did an spanish and south-american advertising campaign with some caracters with a typeface that it was entirely developed by me.

Now the process is that my lawyer, specialist in intelectual property, and me are creating the apellation text to try change the judgement (other judge).

The judgement says that I am the author and Renault have stolen my type but,the judge continued saying there is no any personality of me in my design, so I'm not be able to defend my creation because is not original. My typeface is inspired by tracks of a car game (ex. Scalextric or Superslot) but simplifying some of the details of those track modules. Is the first inspired with those tracks in Spain anb was published like that.

The judge had two writings from the most important association of designers in spain where they give the whitnes about my work, as well as the director of the exhibition.

That typeface was designed and developed for an urban design contest in Barcelona, I won the first typeface prize and there it was an exhibition where my typeface was one of the things shown. In the displays said perfectly that I was the designer and developer of that alphabet/typography, so with this example would be enough to consider that I have some rights with it. I wonder how Renault (and its advertising agency) accesed directly to my own type file, because the shown in the ad campaign had the same details, tracking and kerning.

Now we would need to receive some tricky reasons to defend it in front of this giant firm. I do not how to proceed, I would need some help an especialist, specially if you know similar issues where the judge finally gave the veredict to the designer part.

Thank you so much!

Luis Llabres (4L)

Arno Enslin's picture

Have you published a document, in which the font was embedded, a PDF for example?

Why don’t you post a few images that show the stolen typeface?

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

@ Arno,

As far as I understand what 4LDesign is looking for is advice from people who have experience in type related lawsuits. The post in not looking for peers opinions on wether the font was stolen or not.



4ldesign's picture

@ Arno,

Thank you so much for your reply,
Yes, it's true, RamiroE is right, no matter how they got the typeface, now the point is to see if anyone achieved to win a big firm and how in those typographic affairs.

If you want to see an example of it you can see page 11 of this document:
http://www.4ldesign.net/portluiseng.pdf (the PDF is secured)



barthak's picture

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

I don't understand the statement of the judge that there is not any personality of you in your design. Isn't this debatable? I mean, your work wasn't a literal translation (a typeface is something totally different than racetracks); theirs was. If you can't claim this was your work, then no designer can ever copyright anything, because every designer has its inspiration.

Sorry this is just a peers opinion...

Arno Enslin's picture

And your type is in the line "abchj BMX 378"? And the judge said, that there is no personality in your design? That’s absurd.

One of your questions was, how it was possible to access your font.
the PDF is secured

It was. I have removed the protection in three seconds with the tool "PDF Password Remover". There are probably many more of those tools. The typeface does not seem to be embedded as font, but I think, it would be relatively easy to extract the letters.

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

A beta version of font was sent to the exhibition organizers. Probably someone distributed it.

4ldesign's picture

As the judgement is writed:
"how I can try to defend my creativity if its inspired from the racetrack pieces?"
I tried to answer to this question before to be writed in that judgement, with an example, the warhol painting of the cambells soup.

He said something like in that masterpiece you can see many personal examples of Warhol paintings (and it is true). Now I will need to try to get more and better examples of designs or creations where it's clear that the inspiration was other design thing or made them by other creator. Do you have better examples?

I will not reply to the stealing technics about breaking a PDF password, it's true that the font is not embeded and the example caracters are not the same. It's clear they did´t get the paths from this example. I think they got them from a beta file that I sent to the display printers of the exibition. But in that case, in the typefile has the text telling that the type was copyrighted with an email address. It's clear someone distributed it without permission. Doesn´t matter. The guilty is Renault (and its ad agency, but that don´t interest me much, the final name was Renault and it's responsible of the trouble).

4ldesign's picture

...and the judge keeps in mind that I am the author and Renault stole it.

Arno Enslin's picture

@ 4ldesign

Good luck!

4ldesign's picture

@ Florian Hardwig
Great news, I send the info to my lawyer. What a pity, everything is in USA :(
I think in Europe a type is still more difficult to defend.

Typography.Guru's picture

For European examples you might contact the nice people at FontShop (see the lawsuits against Brendel or other forgers). But as I recall it, most promising were not the arguments about the stolen "design", but it was mostly about hinting code, glyph databases and so on that convinced the lawyers.

Florian Hardwig's picture

What a pity, everything is in USA

Nah, there are specialized lawyers for IP/design issues in every bigger city. I don’t know about Amsterdam, but here’s a competent Berlin-based law firm: Berndorff.

4ldesign's picture

Thanks Ralf and Florian,
I sent emails to them to know if there is something similar in Europe.
The problem is I started this issue in Madrid and I was living in Barcelona on that time, so I have a lawyer of that place. If everything goes wrong I do not know what I will do, if I have money and time (I don´t think so) I will try to do a better research. The problem is the spanish justice, I have to go to Madrid (firm address) to manage the demand.

Igor Freiberger's picture


I work directly with judges in Brazilian Judiciary. Unhappily, judges have a permanent difficult to understand these less usual issues. And IP questions are not usual.

This also applies to some lawyers. Even IP specialists tend to write in a very 'legal' way and this does not helps the judge to understand an issue outside his usual world. If you can, do a final verification in your lawyer appeal before he submits it to the second trial. Maybe you can help to achieve a more comprehensive text.

In many times the case got a deeper analysis in second trial and the misundertood decision from first trial is reverted. Key to this is to make them understand what is a font design and why a font is protected even considering the basic character shapes are known for centuries.

Another place to search is WIPO/OMPI site. They provide lots of materials about IP and most of their orientations apply primarly to Europe.

Good luck.

Nick Shinn's picture

"how I can try to defend my creativity if its inspired from the racetrack pieces?"

Only God started with a completely blank slate.

Your creativity was not in originating the shapes, but in adapting them to work as a system of recognizable letters in an original typeface -- i.e. a design that did not previously exist as a typeface.


guifa's picture

¿Tienes una copia de la decisión? Soy intérprete jurídico, a lo mejor les puedo dar una mejor explicación en inglés de qué ha dicho el juez ya que me parece que según nos dices él te ha dicho qué faltaba en tu denuncia/demanda.

De todas formas…suerte… la justicia allí en Madrid va muy, muy lento. (sigo esperando una decisión sobre una denuncia contra Telefónica que hice hace ya casi un año y medio)

Bloodtype's picture

Renault sound like a real nasty bunch of bastardi. I would like to think a billionaire multi-national company would be happy to pay and credit someone who contributed to a campaign, but there was probably some bean counter who thought s/he could get away with ripping you off.

Good luck! Build a strong case with lots of examples (like Nick's above) as well as evidence of past cases that went in the creative's favour, if you can.

Maybe we could start a thread where we add any images/ evidence that will help your case, as and when we find them?

4ldesign's picture

Thank you very much to all of you, i'm feeling so supported. I am taking note of all of your ideas and I am sending them to my lawyer (he is also surprised with the amount of links you have given to me)

Bloodtype, will be great to see similar images, especially if they are involved in those kind of problems.

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

Luis: Hay un aspecto importante que algunos han señalado e ignoro si ha sido tenido en cuenta en tu juicio. Es el de la utilización de información digital de tu archivo. Si los contornos digitales son los mismos, si las bases de datos de espaciado y kerning coinciden, entonces también debe considerarse que el programa, el 'sofware data' ha sido copiado.
Esos argumentos, como nos señalan, suelen ser mucho más objetivos para los jueces que la argumentación estética.

4ldesign's picture

Hola Ramiro,
en efecto, tal como vimos en el artículo de Wolfang Hartmann dice que esa característica es la más defendible de todas.

Efectivamente la tenemos en cuenta, ya que los modelos de propiedad en España o son artísticos o de software, y cierto es que la tipografía es difícil de encasillar.

Realmente se apoderaron del fichero digital y no de los trazados desde un PDF.

4ldesign's picture

Sorry to speak above in spanish,

it seems to be clear that is difficult to defend a typeface, because in Spain you can only register artworks printed and software programs. At least seems to be clear too that Renault stole directly my fontfile, so would be interesting to push specially this part of soft...

but it's true, I will continue collecting interesting creative issues (or images) to probe that the typeface is still creative, as Nick wrote :
"was not in originating the shapes, but in adapting them to work as a system of recognizable letters in an original typeface"
I hope that could be fine, but the question that comes is if I could do that if the tracks were copyrighted.

Thank your again!

William Berkson's picture

I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that in the successful lawsuit of Adobe vs SSI, the court here in the US accepted that taking the numbers from a font file—the specification of the nodes and handles—and simply doing an arithmetical transformation is a violation of copyright of the software. This doesn't look at the design at all, but approaches it as a matter of violation of software copyright. I thought that European law was stronger, but obviously you are having problems with enforcing it.

Will Stanford's picture

I think Nick has it right when looking at your creativity as "not in originating the shapes, but in adapting them to work as a system of recognizable letters in an original typeface".

You are not, it appears, claiming to have designed slot car racing track but the application of that particular aesthetic in 2d as a functioning and unique typeface - Undeniably a creative act with a copyrightable outcome.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out.


Tim Ahrens's picture

On one hand you are suing Renault, on the other hand you are advertising their use of your font in your portfolio. Isn't that a bit inconsequent?

Bloodtype's picture

@ Tim Ahrens
There's no reason he should be denied the cash AND the kudos

russellm's picture

it seems to be clear that is difficult to defend a typeface, because in Spain you can only register artworks printed and software programs.

Fonts are software.

4ldesign's picture

Yes, it seems to be stupid, specially because my comercial name is 4L, remebering the old model of renault (decided much time ago of creating the type).

At the beggining they told something about me, my name and my portfolio but that is other issue, if they need to demand me, that issue has to go afterwards of this cause. It's stupid not to probe that you are a creator and you are nice enough to see your work in the market. It's our life and we use it to eat.

4ldesign's picture

True, we will need to focus that kind of IP. But in that case is not so important if it was so original or creative, isn´t it?

To do an objective valoration (to calculate the amount of money to be paid afterwards this cause) we thought that was interesting to know how much money they paid to the photographer, in order to understand how big was the budget of the campaign and control a bit if it had a huge difusion or not.

Finally we decided to ask 1/3 of the invoice of the shooting of the picture (whithout attresso or postprocesing) because revealed the secret to be the car frozen, so it was a measurement of the creativity of the campaign. It was my idea and my lawyer considered that was in that moment so objective, Renault thought that it was a stupid valoration, because a typeface in the market is much cheaper than that but in our judgement does not say anything about that "stupid" valoration that said Renault

David Rault's picture

Hey Luis,

First of all, I think your typeface is nice and original (and only a stupid judge would state that "it bears no personality", but unfortunately there is plenty of stupid judges, and Renault is powerful).

This being said, I think, as well, that attacking Renault while using them in your portfolio is really stupid. Either you are angry that they stole your work and ask for them to pay you the font (40$ ? 50$ ?), or you make a huge advertisement everywhere, in your portoflio, in your website, that Renault is using your typeface, and still put it up for sale (that would be clever). Right now you look like you are trying to do both, and it won't end up in a nice way I think.

my opinion.

4ldesign's picture

@David Rault
Yes, at the beggining Renault tried to push me with my ad in the portfolio. They were wondering if I gave the typeface to their ad agency, asking me if I did an economic deal with them to use it in the campaign, and now try to defend my cause against them. The judge considered that issue was a stupid fact.

Thank you for your considerations, when I saw at the first time the ad I was in shock. Before go to a lawyer to defend my cause I was so proud to see my work in the streets so I decided to use it as a work in my short experience in that time, which helped to be considered in some places. After that period, the lawyer decided not to remove it from my portfolio, because anybody can understand it as a real work and was be able to be in my portfolio, specially if they did not pay and sign anything to control my diffusion.

4ldesign's picture

Today I was talking with my lawyer and he told me the main aim in the 1st stage was defend the typeface as a creative job, not as a software program.

Now we know that is more easy to defend it as a software but we cannot change the main focusing of the process. Now in the appellation we cannot reconsider the way to defend it. We know that only typeface that was able to be creative defended was the Futura. No other typeface achieved that issue. Now I am a bit disappointed but today my lawyer told me that he thinks we could probe our creativity as a normal artwork inspired in racetracks.

We will tell you how everything comes.

4ldesign's picture

Does anybody know any other typeface inspired in other registered product?

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