An independent designer of custom fonts is accusing Menlo Park-based Zazzle of being a remorseless font thief.
In a lawsuit, Nicky Laatz accuses Zazzle, a global online marketplace for customized products, of using some of her fonts under false pretenses starting about three years ago, profiting off of them after they became popular among its nearly 100 million users, and then ignoring her demands to stop using them without permission or payment.
Bartko, the law firm representing Laatz, alleges that Zazzle instructed its senior network engineer to pose as an individual designer and to obtain a single-user license for Laatz’s Blooming Elegant Trio of fonts. A single user license typically means only one registered user can use the licensed fonts.
The lawsuit accuses Zazzle of loading the software onto its servers and making the fonts available to its massive global user base of designers and customers without permission and without paying Laatz licensing fees or royalties. The alleged ill-gotten fonts became a swift hit for Zazzle and its user-base; they were used to market countless popular items by some of Zazzle’s most successful designers, including business cards and wedding invitations, according to the lawsuit.
When I file a case like this one where the evidence of the defendant’s wrongdoing is conclusive from the start, I don’t hesitate in bringing an early summary judgment motion on behalf of the victim.
Laatz said she didn’t know her fonts were being used until two years ago, when a Zazzle user contacted her for help with using the fonts on the Zazzle website. She said she was shocked and demanded that Zazzle cease offering her fonts to its designers and customers. She also reportedly demanded a detailed accounting of products that used her fonts through Zazzle, along with the company’s revenue related to them. The company “refused her demands,” continued to use her fonts and then, earlier this month, the company replaced them with “cheap imitations,” according to Bartko.
Laatz filed the lawsuit (read it here) Aug. 24. The lawsuit demands repayment of all Zazzle profits and the recovery of lost licensing revenues related to the use of Laatz’s fonts in a marketplace of tens of millions of users.
Zazzle has not yet responded to Climate’s request for comment.
On Wednesday night, Laatz followed up with a very early motion for partial summary judgment, which seeks resolution to the case without a full trial (read the motion here).
Bartko attorney Patrick Ryan, who is Laatz’s lead trial counsel, describes the suit as “one of the clearest cut cases of fraud” he’s seen in over 20 years practicing law.
“When I file a case like this one where the evidence of the defendant’s wrongdoing is conclusive from the start, I don’t hesitate in bringing an early summary judgment motion on behalf of the victim,” he said.
Zazzle is meanwhile preparing for an IPO with a valuation forecast by some at between $1-2 billion.
Disclaimer: Adam Alberti, the publisher of Climate Magazine, is Managing Director at Singer Associates, Inc. Bartko is represented by Singer Associates.