The lowdown on generic cloned fonts

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Michael S's picture
Joined: 3 Dec 2004 - 8:11am
The lowdown on generic cloned fonts

I’m new to the site. I’ve always indulged in my typophilia alone, as a self-taught amateur. I aspire to expert competence, but I have some very basic, beginner questions–as Tallulah Bankhead said, please be kind!

I’ve noticed that many font collections available for sale appear to use “generic” names. For example, the Murray Hill from 1956 often appears as “Muriel.”

How do these clones come to be, and is there any danger to using them instead of the originals? Is there any real difference between the original and the generic font? I checked the comp.fonts FAQ and didn’t see this question addressed, and I made some Google searches but did not find it answered anywhere.

I seem to recall reading about this years ago. My understanding is that while a font itself may not be copyrightable, the name can be trademarked–so these cloned fonts with generic or non-standard names are generally scans or otherwise inferior reproductions of an original, whose name is trademarked, and they are best avoided. Is that correct?

Case in point: I saw an advertisement for a “Megafont” CD, containing 10,000 typefaces for US$50. They’re TrueType and they appear to be of this “generic” variety–Murray Hill was “Muriel,” etc. How does such a collection compare to the original typefaces?

David Earls's picture
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 11:00am

Although there are always exceptions to any rule, generally speaking, cheap fonts are cheap for a reason.

$50 for 10,000 typefaces almost certainly translates to poor quality outlines, badly-executed or non-existent metrics, limited character sets and legally- and morally- dubious copies of original works. Remember also that a poor quality copy of a typeface design is an insult to the original designer.

The difference is quality. You get what you pay for. Well, as a general rule anyhow… :-)