Microsoft Sued for $1.5 Million Over Hebrew Type Font

Inventor of 'Hadassah' font, who began designing it while hiding from the Nazis, 'would turn over in his grave if he knew what was done to his work' by Microsoft, says daughter and heir.

The copyrights over the Hebrew type fonts known to Office users as ‏Guttman Hodes and Monotype Hadassah are the focus of a lawsuit recently filed against Microsoft at a Lod District Court.

About 70 years ago, as he was hiding from the Nazi horrors in an attic in the Netherlands, the artist Henry Friedlander began designing a Hebrew print font. Friedlander, of German descent, escaped to the Netherlands, and there, in that attic, he continued to design and perfect a Hebrew type font.

In 1958, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Israel’s independence, he completed his design, and called the font “Hadassah.”

Hannah Tal, Friedlander’s sole heir, claims that by using and advertising the font to millions of users without her permission, Microsoft is committing copyrights violations. In response, Microsoft has claimed that Tal is hiding from the courts the fact that her father transferred his rights to the font to a foundry in the Netherlands in 1950. That foundry then provided licenses to other parties to use the font, which in turn transferred the rights to the font over to Microsoft. The company also says that Tal does not own exclusive rights to the original font.

Friedlander, winner of the Johann Gutenberg prize in 1970, and an honorary professor at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts, died in 1996, aged 92. He left all of his property, including copyrights in his name, to his only daughter. “Hadassah is a special, precious, and festive font, an original work of art, praised by experts as groundbreaking in terms of design and style," Tal said a recent lawsuit. "The Hadassah font is based on extensive historical research into the shapes and development of Hebrew letters.

The designer’s daughter adds that her father created the font over a period of some 30 years, and that “each and every letter was meticulously designed, preserving the uniqueness of each letter, while at the same time adapting the same style to all of the letters.”

Tal claims that even though Microsoft never received permission to use the font, it has done so by adapting it for two groups of fonts, including Guttman Hodes, and Monotype Hadassah. The names as well, claim Tal, mistakenly claim that they are connected to the original Hadassah font. These fonts, Tal says, are a falsification of the original, and distort Friedlander’s original work. According to Tal, “saying that Friedlander would turn over in his grave if he knew what was done to his work is not an exaggeration at all.”

In its defense Microsoft has said, “the late Friedlander never made any claims during his life about the widespread use of the Hadassah font. On the contrary, he expressed satisfaction that the font was so widely spread by the Dutch printing house.” Microsoft also said it began using the font in digital versions in 1993, in a version called Guttman Hodes, which was created by the late Samuel Guttman, after it received permission to do so. Finally, Microsoft says the statute of limitations applies to the lawsuit, and filing it now is flagrant, and in bad faith.
 

Tomer Appelbaum