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Type Stars Jonathan Hoefler And Tobias Frere-Jones Settle Their Bitter Lawsuit

The most dramatic design feud of the year has quietly come to an end. But what happened?

Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler, the Beatles of the type world, aren’t getting back together any time soon. But their bitter lawsuit over ownership of the world-famous type foundry that once bore both their names has, at least, come to an end.

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According to documents filed today with the New York County Supreme Court, the lawsuit between Hoefler and his former business partner Frere-Jones has been settled out of court. All other details of the settlement are confidential. Reached by phone, Frere-Jones told Co. Design he could not comment on the settlement.

Founded in the early 1990s, Hoefler & Frere Jones (now Hoefler & Co.) is a legendary type foundry responsible for some of the most popular new fonts to come out in the past 20 years. With a library of almost 800 typefaces, including the architecture-inspired Gotham font and the eponymous Hoefler Text, the foundry boasts a list of famous clients as long as your arm, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Tiffany, Nike, Hewlett-Packard, and more.

On the surface, all seemed well between the two partners, but in January, the type world was shocked when Frere-Jones accused Hoefler of having scammed him out of his half of the multi-million-dollar business. Describing Hoefler’s actions as “the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust, and confidence,” Frere-Jones quickly sued his former partner, providing dozens of incriminating emails and chat logs as evidence that he had been cheated. Meanwhile, claiming that Frere-Jones had never been anything besides an employee, Hoefler changed the name of the type foundry to Hoefler & Co, while also asking the court to dismiss the case against him.

Although the matter is now seemingly resolved, it’s not clear what this means for the future of Hoefler & Co, or the ownership of the popular typefaces that Frere-Jones said he had been tricked into turning over to his partner. We’ll update when we know more. In the meantime, you can read more about Frere-Jones’s allegations against Hoefler, and the lessons designers can learn from their failed partnership.

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