Panoptica – Panopticon

Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,980
edited February 2014 in Type Business
Ten years ago I published a typeface named Panoptica, a name derived from Bentham’s prison.
I didn’t register the name as a trademark (I don’t register all my typeface names, due to cost).
So it has just the common-law “™” protection, such as that is.

Panoptica is distributed by eight online distributors, and has appeared in several printed compendiums, such as Type Navigator and Creative Characters, so it is definitely “out there” professionally, despite not being very popular.

Now another foundry has published a typeface with a similar name, Panopticon, again derived from Bentham’s Panopticon.
This new typeface looks nothing like mine, although the design concept of diversity (from the Greek “pan-”) is the same.

Is this an issue?
What should I do, if anything?


  • IANAL, but the similarities in name are much too close and would surely cause confusion in the marketplace. Since you don't specify a country location for the other foundry, only a real attorney can say for sure, but if it was mine I wouldn't just let it pass. Try something, even a cease-and-desist. If that fails, then depending upon the financial value of your font at this late date you might consider the next step -- lawsuit.
  • Both font names, which are not the same, are based on a term coined in the 18th century. That you hadn't considered your version of it sufficiently valuable to register it properly would say a lot in a courtroom. I was about to suggest that you might have done better to name the font Bentham, but lo and behold, there is already a font of that name--available from none other than Google Fonts. As you can see for yourself, it's appropriately priced.

    If you have huge sacks of money that you're itching to get rid of, then by all means consider legal action. But if not, you'd do well to look the other way. I think sending a cease-and-desist letter would be mean-spirited in this case. I know if it came to me, I would spend a second or two looking at my hand, deciding which finger to show you. Let's just say it wouldn't be "thumbs up."
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,911
    edited February 2014
    I’ve decided to start giving my original designs original names just for this reason. My last original design was Gigalypse, my upcoming release is Ironstrike. With names like these I hope I won’t have to worry about competing with lazy can’t be bothered to check for similar names.
  • With over a thousand foundries plus a locust-cloud of hobbyists churning out thousands of new faces a year, I suspect it's no longer realistic to expect to create a typeface name, however original or idiosyncratic, that isn't similar to one or more typeface names out there, or to think somebody out there won't eventually choose a name similar to one of yours.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,432
    I am not that worried about my "Dez Yinz'nat" ;-)
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited February 2014
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  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,980
    Umberto Eco’s The Book of Imaginary Lands is full of great potential typeface names. Both imaginary and real.
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 827
    edited February 2014
    @Nick: The problem with names chosen from books like Eco's latest is they are well known universal myths. You might not be the only one to think "Lemuria" or "Hypeborea" make good font names. (BTW, I enjoyed a lot reading "The Book of Imaginary Lands")
  • Nick, I think working on The Library of Imaginary Trademarks is how you got here.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,432
    I haver also read "The Book of Imaginary Lands" and like the idea of a typeface named "Cynocephali" as a headline face of course ;-)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,980
    Ramiro, there are a lot of obscure, little-known myths and people in Eco’s book.

    Alternatively, Genesis has a lot of strange names—name your next typeface after someone who lived 900+ years, for good luck.
  • @Chris What about a companion called "sciapod" to be used in footnotes only? :)
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,432
    @Ramiro, "Metatarsal Bliss" may come out of a certain UK foundry, it would be a shoe-in for success ;-)
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