Brown problem

One of my distributors licensed Brown Gothic™ to a customer, who now wants a refund as they thought they were buying Lineto’s Brown.

My original design, Brown™, was published in 2002, but the trademark was not registered. I doubt that would have made much difference to Cornel Windlin, whom I contacted in 2011 when he released LL Brown, as he declined to change the name, citing the fact that the types are quite different—one geometric the other grotesque—and Brown is a generic name. I decided not to pursue the matter legally, for various reasons.

My distributor asks if I’m OK with refunding the purchaser who made the mistake.

What would you do?


  • Issue the refund. Chances are that the purchaser was a business/accounting staffer who was told to buy Brown and bought the wrong font.
  • Nick, perhaps you should charge a restocking fee, considering that Brown goes way up on the A-B shelf and involves the use of a cherry picker to put it back.
  • I’d give a refund. It's not your fault that there is a confusingly similar-named typeface out there, but it absolutely isn’t the customer’s fault either.

    I just had a situation not unlike this with WebINK last week, and although in our case I couldn’t quite understand how the customer made the mistake, it just didn’t seem worth being stingy about it. I just told customer servie to go ahead and give them a refund.
  • While the ethical issue is simple--a mistake is a mistake and you issue a refund, as long as another font of a similar name has been purchased--the reality isn't so clear, as you have issued an irretrievable piece of software, some time was taken by correspondence, and some accounting had to be done. In the modern world that often results in some kind of charge.

    It reminds me of a recent situation in which I booked the wrong flight; it was entirely my own fault for not double-checking the order list before I pushed the purchase button. I was charged $50 or $75, I think, to undo it. Do they do that at all the booking sites? I didn't want to waste the time to find out. It seems to me, however, that even though the flight reservation was arguably more "retrievable" than the font, charging something was not out of line. I would think that font sellers should have in place a similar policy, to cover their own costs and the costs of the font makers they represent.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,127
    True, but these issues play out differently for large corporations, where inefficiencies can multiply, be measured, and managed.

    I like Si’s thinking on this—decline to issue the refund and suggest the customer ask LineTo for reimbursement, as it was Windlin’s intransigence that led to the mistake.

    BTW, Stuart Brown published a font named Brown in 2009, and when I pointed out the issue to him, changed its name to Tooting.

    Thanks for all your comments, the refund has been issued.
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