All the way back in 2001, we wrote about how the brilliant satirists at Despair Inc. successfully trademarked 🙁 and announced that they planned to sue 7 million internet users for violating the trademark. The actual announcement was pretty funny — even though not everyone got the joke. In 2006, we also had a story that mentioned a whole bunch of patents and patent applications related to emoticons.
It appears that one of those is now being used in a lawsuit against Samsung and RIM for having the gall to create a button that makes it easy to pick an emoticon without typing it in. The patent in question (US Patent 7,167,731) really is for having a button that lets you pick emoticons. How this is possibly patentable is beyond me. But, for some reason, examiner Lee Nguyen thought it was somehow non-obvious. The patent was originally assigned to Wildseed, a mobile accessories firm that AOL bought in 2005. The patent itself then went to Varia Mobil, who moved it to Varia Holdings to Varia and back to Varia Holdings. It’s Varia Holdings bringing the lawsuit. Varia appears to just be a trolling operation (of course).
It’s fairly stunning that anyone considered this a valid patent at any point. That it’s now being used as the basis for a lawsuit should (once again) raise significant questions about the USPTO’s approval process for patents.