On Monday, September 19th, an Israeli court found in favor of the plaintiff in a copyright infringement suit against Tzvika and Piki Rosenberg, of Masterfont. The plaintiff, Hannah Tal, alleged that the Rosenbergs had purloined the typeface Hadassah, the work of her father, Henri Friedlaender. Some of the details were reported in Ha'aretz, a major Israeli newspaper:
We in the United States can only be aghast at such an event, as our law provides virtually no protection for the design of letters (or many other sorts of graphic design), though it provides much protection for trademarks, the names and symbols under which things are sold. Here, the suit could only demand that the Rosenbergs cease selling the type under its original name.
One should keep in mind that there are other versions of Hadassah around, made in Israel and elsewhere, though not all traded under that name. And there are original types that were inspired by Friedlaender's forms, too. Hadassah, like Ismar David's eponymous type, has become something close to common cultural property in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. Both are modern masterpieces that have suffered greatly in poorly executed versions (a charge one might make against the Rosenbergs in this instance). One might argue, too, that the punchcutter and supervisors at the Amsterdam Tetterode Typefoundry had a large share of responsibility for Hadassah's success. That leads me to think there's a least a drop of wisdom in the U.S. law, though we would do well to have at least a drop of protection, too. But woe to those who design a great classic type!