Russian Businessman Trademarks Emoticon

December 12th, 2008 at 12:00 am


Here’s a funny one.

A Russian businessman, Oleg Teterin, president of mobile ad company Superfone, has trademarked the emoticon 😉 – which conveys a winking smiley.

According to Teterin, he will not go after people who use the emoticon but he will file legal charges for corporations that will use the emoticon for profit.  Moreover, emoticons such as 🙂 , 😉 and 🙂 will fall under his ownership due to their resemblance to the 😉 .  "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," he said in comments to NTV.  "Legal use will be possible after buying an annual license from us," he was quoted by Kommersant as saying. "It won’t cost that much — tens of thousands of dollars."

It’s another case of "perfectly legal yet completely absurd."  This was also the reaction of other Russian internet entrepreneurs.  "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," Alexander Manis, the director of a broadband internet and mobile company, told NTV.

Hopefully the trademark does not cross international borders because it might start World War 3 ;p.

In the US (or anywhere else for that matter) nobody has trademarked those smiley faces and by default most people are comfortable with the idea that it is public domain.  Even the creator of the emoticon, Scott Fahlman, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, who first used the emoticon 25 years ago isn’t claiming ownership.