Apparently America hasn’t cornered the market on stupid patents and trademarks. A Russian businessman has obtained a Russian trademark for the emoticon 😉 which is used to convey a wink in text messages and e-mail.
Oleg Teterin, president of the mobile ad company Superfone, said he doesn’t plan to sue individual users. “I want to highlight that this is only directed at corporations, companies that are trying to make a profit without the permission of the trademark holder,” Teterin said. He plans to send legal warnings to companies that use the symbol without his permission. “Legal use will be possible after buying an annual license from us,” Teterin continued. “It won’t cost that much — tens of thousands of dollars.” He also said similar emoticons 🙂 or 😉 or 🙂 resemble his trademarked symbol and therefore fall under his ownership.
“Imagine the next wise-guy who trademarks the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet and then says anyone who uses the Russian alphabet has to send him money. It’s absurd,” said Alexander Manis, director of a broadband Internet and mobile company.
Scott Fahlman, a Carnegie Mellon professor, believes the trademark is invalid due to prior art. Fahlman claims he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal “smiley face” in a computer message 25 years ago.
Article published on December 12, 2008
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