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Adobe sues Agfa over Acrobat fonts

Adobe says its right to use certain fonts in Acrobat is still valid, though Agfa purchased the foundries. Agfa claims a violation of the DMCA.

Software publisher Adobe Systems announced late Tuesday that it was taking legal action against publishing and imaging conglomerate Agfa over Adobe's right to use certain Agfa-owned fonts in its Acrobat electronic-document software.

Adobe filed suit in U.S District Court in San Jose, Calif., seeking a judicial ruling that would allow it to continue using typefaces developed by International Typeface, a design firm acquired by Belgium-based Agfa in 2000. Adobe said it also started an arbitration case in London over similar claims to fonts developed by Agfa's Monotype subsidiary.

Adobe spokeswoman Holly Campbell said Adobe acquired rights to use the disputed fonts some time ago, but Agfa now wants to renegotiate the agreements so that it can charge fees to Adobe customers who use the disputed fonts. "They want to collect additional license fees above and beyond what we agreed to," she said.

Campbell said Agfa has also threatened to pursue its rights to the fonts under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the controversial and far-reaching electronic publishing rights measure enacted several years ago. Adobe contends its licensing agreement supersedes the DMCA.

"Many years ago, Adobe anticipated the shift to electronic documents. At that time, we obtained the embedding rights from our font partners necessary to permit the creation of electronic documents," said Jim Heeger, Adobe's senior vice president for cross-media products. "We are now defending the rights we obtained so our customers can continue conducting business in the electronic age."

Adobe became the focal point of one of the earliest tests of the DMCA when Russian programmer Dmitry Skylarov was jailed last year after giving a speech on methods for cracking Adobe publishing software. Prosecutors eventually dropped charges against Skylarov, but his employer, ElcomSoft, is set to go on trial against Adobe soon.

An Agfa representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.