A Delaware-based type foundry and design studio has filed a suit against Rite Aid and its creative and advertising agencies, alleging that the Camp Hill pharmaceutical chain violated a license agreement with the company when it used one of its fonts as part of a $700 million rebranding campaign.
Brand Design Co., doing business as House Industries, alleges in the suit that Rite Aid, along with its creative and advertising agencies PureRED Creative and Burns Group, used a font licensed to them by House Industries in Rite Aid’s new logo when the licensing agreement expressly prohibited use of the font in a logo.
Rite Aid unveiled a brand refresh in May 2020 featuring the new logo. The new design featured a change from its former red coloring to a blue and green color scheme and the lettering was changed to House’s Neutraface font.
In the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania, House wrote that it avoids licensing its fonts in ways that would allow them to be exclusively associated with a single license.
“House’s font designs are intended to evoke a mood or an aesthetic that anyone can license; its designs are not intended and are not licensed to evoke an exclusive association with any one company,” House wrote in the complaint.
House alleges that all agreements between it and either Rite Aid or its agencies prohibit the use of Neutraface in a logo and both Rite Aid and PureRED signed the same license agreements containing the same logo prohibitions.
Rite Aid has gone on to use the new logo across its store brand product packaging and has updated its store fronts with the new logo. Use of the Neutraface font in this way has decreased the licensable value of the font, according to House.
“Not only did Rite Aid take for its own what House does not license, it also fundamentally undermined the licensable value of Neutraface,” the company wrote in the complaint. “This harm is magnified by the incredibly broad scope of Rite Aid’s unauthorized uses. By using Neutraface so extensively as its own brand, Rite Aid threatens to destroy the present and future licensable value of the font.”
The Neutraface font is one of House’s proprietary fonts that it licenses to clients for limited use. Companies that purchase a license for the font can access it using a font generating software that they download.
The font software’s value comes in House’s ability to license it repeatedly to different licensees over an extended period, which it has done with Neutraface since 2002.
The complaint states that upon learning of Rite Aid’s use of Neutraface outside of its licenses, the company has made numerous attempts to work with PureRED and Rite Aid to reach a resolution, but after failing to come to an agreement, Rite Aid eventually stopped responding.
In a statement regarding the suit, Andy Cruz, founder of House Industries, said that Rite Aid’s failure to respond forced the company’s hand.
“As we detailed in our complaint, Rite Aid and its agents have misappropriated our company’s intellectual property and filed a trademark for their company logo without our approval as part of a complete brand makeover,” said Cruz. “We are a small company, and have attempted to resolve this matter amicably, without resorting to litigation against a much larger corporation, but Rite Aid’s actions have forced us to take appropriate steps to protect our company’s artwork and rights. We look forward to establishing our claims in court.”
Rite Aid was not immediately available for comment.