Hasbro is being sued for allegedly using an unlicensed font as part of the branding for its My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic range. If the claim is found to be true, it could cost the toy company millions of dollars in damages.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is considered to be the fourth generation of the My Little Pony franchise. It was launched in October 2010 with an animated cartoon series and multiple lines of merchandise including toys, books, clothing, comics and other collectibles, all using branding text in the font "Generation B".
The line has been hugely successful for Hasbro and even sparked off a new target market of adult followers, including young and middle-aged men who call themselves "bronies". Hasbro has seen increased profits from the new My Little Pony franchise.
However, a font company called Font Brothers, which owns the licence to Generation B, is claiming that Hasbro never purchased a licence to use the typeface, which means it was pirated and used without permission on all of the branding for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, according to TorrentFreak.
Hasbro 'refused to purchase special license' for font
Although the font was originally created by Harold Lohner, Font Brothers is exclusively authorised to commercially exploit the font. The firm claims Hasbro has refused several demands to pay them the appropriate licensing fees for using the font.
It is only possible to get a copy of a licensed font if another user were to physically give the file to you, or if you were to illegally download.
"Upon information and belief, Defendant Hasbro has used or instructed others to use unauthorised copies of the Generation B Font in the creation of, but not limited to, all products, goods, merchandise, television and film properties, and advertising materials connected with the 'My Little Pony' product line and by way of third party vendors authorised to sell 'My Little Pony' branded goods bearing the term 'My Little Pony' using the Generation B Font," Font Brothers alleges in the complaint.
The firm also claims not only has Hasbro not purchased a special licence to use the font, but that the toy company has also created unauthorised copies of the font software and distributed it to third parties.
$150,000 for each infringing use of the font
Font Brothers claims that Hasbro's alleged use of a pirated version of the font has deprived Font Brothers of revenue from the sale of licences for Generation B, as well as injuring the font company's relationships with other customers pay for the licence to use the font. Besides the many products that bear the Friendship is Magic font (see examples collected for the complaint), Font Brothers also points out that if you look at the official My Little Pony website's CSS stylesheet, the font Generation B is specifically mentioned, and a copy of the font is stored and distributed through Hasbro's servers.
A screencap taken of the stylesheet by Font Brothers does show the Generation B font listed as "GenerationB.otf", but when IBTimes UK looked at the CSS stylesheet on 28 January, the first font face had been removed from the code, leaving only "Chalkduster.tff".
Font Brothers is asking for the dispute to go to trial and for a jury to make a decision, with potential damages from gains and profits valued at not less than $150,000 (£104,000) per infringement, which could run into the millions considering how many different products Hasbro has released from the franchise since 2010.
The font company also wants the court to make Hasbro surrender for destruction all computer files, CD-ROMs, flash drives, solid state drives, hard drives, DVDs, all other recorded media and all television and film properties, products, goods and merchandise that use the copyrighted font.
So far, Hasbro has not removed the font from any of its websites. IBTimes UK has contacted Hasbro for comment and is waiting for a response.