Who owns DIN typeface? (Type questions about rights and public domain)

Fernando DíazFernando Díaz Posts: 112
edited November 7 in History of Typography

A student asked me a question about legal rights of DIN, and that I wanted to know for sure:

1) Is it legal to grab a vector drawing of DIN from the 90's, change minor details and sell it on the market with another name?

2) Is it legal to grab a print of DIN from the 1931, digitise it, change minor details and sell it on the market with another name?

I know that the original version was designed in 1931, so the rights should be public domain, right? 
Maybe a company let say... Monotype, owns the legal rights of the font's drawing and naming. Is it still public domain?

It's not entirely clear at least to me.
Any help will be welcome! 
Thank you


  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,685
    edited November 7
    Thanks @Aaron Bell for all those details about Bahnschrift! Nothing surprising, but good to know.

    (Huh. That was NOT supposed to be a sunglasses emoji in my previous post. I can't remember what it was that I typed, but... not that.)

    This discussion reminds me, when I was working on Hypatia Sans, I made a deliberate choice to avoid looking much at other geometric sans typefaces. Especially during the caps work, when I looked really hard at ... Trajan. Then afterwards I compared and was shocked by how much some of my caps looked like Futura.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 467
    edited November 8
    Of course, Futura, Lydian, and Optima are three examples of typefaces that follow the classic Trajan column proportions for their caps, so perhaps that is not as surprising as it might seem.

    Not that I'm telling you (or most of the others here) anything you don't know.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,685
    edited November 8
    Right. I had previously thought of Futura as just “geometric” and never realized that it too had followed the Trajan proportions so closely. I was hoping marrying Trajan-sans caps + geometric lowercase was a new idea, when in fact it was entirely unoriginal. (Lydian and Optima are more humanist in their lowercase forms than Futura.)

    “All the old fellows stole our best ideas.”—Frederic Goudy
    “The ancients stole all our ideas from us.”—Mark Twain

    erm, apologies for thread drift.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 467
    edited November 8
    Also, to simplify what you and others have said here (and put the thread back on track): FF DIN is a typeface designed by Font Font, and of course (one should expect that) it is proprietary and so are the computer fonts that implement it. However, DIN is the name of the German standards agency, and FF DIN was made in imitation of a recommended style of lettering for drafting. Of course one can design one's own font, and even sell it commercially, based on the DIN standard for lettering, but don't copy anything directly from FF DIN.
    However, I thought the DIN name would be not only protected, but heavily protected, by trademark law, to prevent companies from packaging products so as to convey a misleading impression that they conform to safety standards. Sort of like Underwriters Laboratories, CSA, ETL and other such bodies.
  • @John Savard There is a DIN logomark (https://trademarks.justia.com/owners/din-deutsches-institut-fur-normung-e-v-1727214/) that the institute has a trademark over that indicates if something conforms to the DIN standards. So one cannot display that mark on a product without approval from the DIN institute. 

    I sort of thought that as long as one doesn't display that logomark, one would be OK to use the word "DIN", but apparently that application in a font scenario is also protected.
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