Typeface revival and copyright

When does it become legally sound to do a revival of a typeface using printed sources, for example a typeface being in the public domain or asking the copyright holder's permission? And does it differ if the work was made in the U.S, or EU (even if the work was made before the EU?).

Comments

  • Typefaces, or the fonts that instantiate them, can be protected, broadly, in three ways:
    • trademark, applies to the name of the typeface. Can last forever if it is kept up.
    • copyright, applies to the design (in some countries), or to the design as instantiated in a digital outline font (in the USA). Can be very lengthy, and have often changed over time, so the duration of copyright on new things may be different than on old things, even in the same country. Currently “life of author +75 years” covers almost the whole world, but if you want to include Mexico, it goes up to “life + 100 years”! (Note: I have no idea if Mexico considers typefaces or fonts subject to copyright.)
    • other forms of design protection, that generally require registration. In the USA there is the notion of a design patent (the very first one was for a typeface!), but hardly anybody other than Adobe gets design patents on fonts. Some other countries have other kinds of design protection. These are generally of shorter duration than copyright, often much shorter (most have a maximum of 25 years or less). 
    Durations of protection for past creations vary, depending on country, and sometimes on initial registration and/or upkeep of registration. It's darn complicated.
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