Hollywood Docket: NBCU Settles 'Harry Potter' Font Lawsuit

NBC Universal has settled a lawsuit brought by a typeface design company over the use of a certain type of font on Harry Potter merchandise sold at Universal theme parks.

P22 Type Foundry brought its claims in New York federal court last July and took exception to Universal's use of its Cezanne Regular type face font software being used to create such Potter merchandise as a "Hedwig Pillow," a "Dementor Cap," and a "Hogwarts Stationery Set."

As discussed in our article when this $1.5 million lawsuit was first filed, fonts can't be copyrighted, but software can be. In recent years, a few bold-faced plaintiffs have attempted to protect their designed fonts by enforcing restrictive licensing terms that don't allow use of the font software in the creation of commercial goods.

Unfortunately, the contours of serif law will have to wait for another day, as NBCU and P22 have agreed to end a battle over whether an end-user licensing agreement on the font software was breached. As a result, a judge has agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. No other terms of the settlement are known.

In other entertainment and media law news:

  • A decade-old case came to a quiet end last week when the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by EchoStar and Dish Network to review litigation over allegations that NDS Group, a digital rights firm owned in large part by News Corp., hacked into Dish Network's video-encryption system so pirates could steal programming for free. The plaintiff claimed $2 billion in damages in one of the first cases alleging Murdoch company hacking, but was largely unsuccessful at the district court level. The case continued up the appeals circuit over some $20 million in legal fees.
  • The FCC has fined several radio stations $22,000 for failing to broadcast all the material rules of a contest to win a car. The dispute was brought on by a disappointed contestant who alleged was rigged in the favor of a friend of a station employee, but the FCC constrained itself to dinging the stations for lack of full disclosure. Running on-air contests can be complicated. We count more than 1,200 words used to describe the rules and conditions of a TV station's Sesame Street Fantasy Contest.
  • One argument not made in the Supreme Court's recent hearing on the FCC's authority to police indecency on broadcast television is that stripping the FCC of its mandate and allowing women to parade around naked on network shows will create a lot of work for entertainment lawyers. Leave it to the New York Post to address this angle in a story how nudity riders are becoming an "everyday part of contract negotiations" for TV cast-members and their lawyers. A tad overstated? Probably, but fun to imagine anyway.
  • If entertainment lawyers have to spend every waking minute negotiating every single boob flash, there will be less free time away from the office. Bad news for one entertainment dealmaker named David B. Schwartz, who in his spare time, has become a successful comic book writer, including his latest epic imagining contestants competing in a reality TV-style spectacle to become a "legal, sanctioned, paid superhero."
  • We've probably seen Clorox's commercial that claims its kitty litter product "is more effective at absorbing odors than baking soda" countless times, but never spent a moment considering it. Earlier this month, a judge did, finding Clorox's scientific method for making such a claim to be wanting. It's "highly implausible that eleven panelists would stick their noses in 
    jars of excrement and report forty-four independent times that they smelled nothing unpleasant," the judge wrote in a decision that granted a rival's request for an injunction that forbids the commercial from airing on TV.