Groundbreaking Hebrew Fonts Are Not Public Domain

Nurit Roth
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Nurit 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.

Fonts from the Narkisim font family.

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.

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