:-( Samsung, Research In Motion Sued For Making It Easy To Use Emoticons

from the thus,-infringing-a-patent dept

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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Excuse me, I need to go palm my face.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      you can't, i already patented and trademark both the phrase and the action. I then sold it for millions to Varia. Expect a lawsuit in the mail.

      Part of it will be seizing the computer you used and all the area around it. Shame on you for stealing my original idea that no one would have ever thought of had it not been for me.

       

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    •  
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      Glaze (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

      Re:

      Like this?

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      ............./__.(....."~-,_..............................,:`........../
      .........../(_...."~,_........"~,_....................,:`........_/
      ..........{.._$;_......"=,_......."-,_.......,.-~-,},.~";/....}
      ...........((.....*~_......."=-._......";,,./`..../"............../
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      ............(....`=-,,.......`........................(......;_,,-"
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      ................................`:,,...........................`..............__
      .....................................`=-,...................,%`>--==``
      ........................................_..........._,-%.......`
      ...................................,

       

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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:47am

    There are four different patents on using a laser pointer to tease a cat. There is also one for using a flashlight to tease a cat, but apparently that didn't count as prior art.

    If using a laser pointer to tease a cat is non-obvious, then why should we be surprised when anything else is found non-obvious?

     

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      Chosen Reject (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:56am

      Re:

      But it is non-obvious. No one in the existence of mankind has ever thought about using a button to represent and perform a series of commands, especially such commands as entering two or more characters. Ever. If you don't believe me, I will be forced to say "ever" again, and if you get belligerent then I'll say "never" very forcefully. This is my argument.

      Also, I did not type this on a Windows machine that uses both carriage return and line feed to represent new lines and are both entered when pressing the "Enter" key. That is a violation of this patent, obviously, and my use of that vile, patent infringing OS would be aiding and abetting the enemy.

      Also, EVER!

       

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        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

        patent examiner Lee Nguyen

        It is confounding that patent examiner Lee Nguyen thought this was non-obvious.

        Especially since this was filed after examiners were allowed to use Google and a cursory search should have led patent examiner Lee Nguyen to realize that sending many more characters than keypresses happened every time patent examiner Lee Nguyen used the "paste" function on patent examiner Lee Nguyen's computer.



        Attn: patent examiner Lee Nguyen

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 9:41pm

          Re: patent examiner Lee Nguyen

          The problem is that patents are written in overly obtuse ways so a google search will come up with nothing. They need to hire people with basic knowledge of what's trying to be patented instead of getting any old schmuck to decide if "that thing on the fairy box" is nonobvious.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      I am patenting interlocking hoops and needle object into a shape that can never be fully described perfectly by math. This is for the express use of entertaining Felis domesticus. Any other uses are prohibited by law. Reverse engineering of the object will lead to execution by a flogging from small animals.

      And that is how you get a patent for an obvious device. In this case a piece of double sided velcro wrapped in a circle.
      Oddly the cat loves this more then any of the other toys. Go figure.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    It's not any better or any worse than "one click buying" at Amazon.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      and that makes it OK?

       

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      John, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 6:32pm

      Re: one click

      The audacity of Amazon: Someone else invented the mouse click and other people purchasing online, and Amazon claim to have invented "1 click buying". It makes a mockery of the patent system.

       

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:56am

    Every time someone successfully files and receives approval on a patent, they have created an unlimited amount of precision financial missiles that can be deployed by any number of owners, future innovation terrorist organizations or individuals, against real innovators shipping financially viable products in the marketplace. I wonder if Lee Nguyen is proud of this. We know people like Andy Baio and Stephan Brunner are not.

     

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      Baldaur Regis (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

      Re:

      Every time someone successfully files and receives approval on a patent, a puppy gets kicked.

      These patent wars are like a Mexican standoff where somebody was actually stupid enough to fire first. Now everybody is suing everybody else, and the only ones innovating are the lawyers with their "I'm gettin' richer by da moment" dance routines.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 11:57am

    Can I patent patent trolling?

    I mean since the fact it's been done before apparently doesn't constitute prior art, I should be able to patent it and then sue people who do it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:15pm

      Re: Can I patent patent trolling?

      You can patent it, but you must use a deceptive and over-complicated language in the patent application. And for best results, add "on the Internet" to the patent application.

       

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        Baldaur Regis (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Can I patent patent trolling?

        Sorry, adding "on the Internet" to a patent application is a patent-pending process. Also, "on the Internet" is trademarked.

         

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        PRMan, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 2:57pm

        Re: Re: Can I patent patent trolling?

        Exactly. I used to work at a University and one of the Science professors had a broken clock. He tried to order a clock for $10 and was shot down by Finance. So, then he ordered a chronometer for $100 and was approved.

         

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      techflaws.org (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 10:58pm

      Re: Can I patent patent trolling?

      I mean since the fact it's been done before apparently doesn't constitute prior art

      And why is that? Because the guys at the USPTO are morons or greedy bastards who wave anything through just to make a dime?

       

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    Alessar (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:00pm

    I met a patent examiner once

    There was a guy I played an online game with once. His mental processes were quite atypical. Somehow anal-retentive and clueless at the same time, with little or no common sense. Not quite the same as some people I've known with Aspberger's; but really just in his own world. Anyway, I asked what he did one day and found out he was a patent examiner and then it all made sense.

     

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      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 7:55pm

      Re: I met a patent examiner once

      Well, the money he makes granting bogus patents probably pays for the quicklime he uses to dispose of the young mens' bodies in his crawlspace. And for the video games he enticed them there with.

       

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    Ruben, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

    I've got it! All patent examiners are promoted from the front lines of the TSA!! Idiocracy FTW!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    :o

     

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    blakey, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    Opera Mail calls that button insert>Smiley, not Emoticon

    so its probably not covered by this patent?

     

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    KelvinZevallos (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:36pm

    My face after reading the article: )-:

     

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    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

    You have GOT to be kidding!

    No the lawsuit by the patent troll, that's predictable.

    This got a patent?????????

    Does any sentient creature not understand now why software patents are a horrible, bad, terrible thing?

    (Sentient creature automatically rules out the majority of IP maximalist trolls here, by the way.)

     

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    Matt, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:15pm

    What a joke

    This is news? The judge should burn that patent in his/her court room, then send this loser packing.

     

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    V (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:18pm

    For goodness sake...

    Will someone PLEASE patent the idea of patenting ideas and then suing people/companies while never actually doing anything with the idea.

    And while you're at it, patent the idea of patenting stupid ideas by adding "on a mobile device" and "on the internet".

    Don't worry about prior art... the patent office doesn't.

     

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    Ruud (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

    Software patents

    This feels like a car manufacturer suing the competition for placing the steering wheel and pedals in exactly the same position in their cars.

     

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    radarmonkey (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    The one word I haven't seen mentioned....

    MACRO. That's all this 'patent' is. A key-binding macro.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    filed in 2005.. and i'll even give them the line about "continuation of prior application filed in 2001"

    every IM client and forum I used from mid to late 90's through early 2000's had this [useless] feature

    Lee Nguyen... c'mon man

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    How said.

    *Frowns

    *Quickly looks around to make sure no lawyers saw

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    My only comment on this is

    ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    This should be a non-event. The Macro is prior art

     

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    MahaliaShere (profile), Mar 19th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    admit it

    I lol'ed at the title. Now all I can do is sigh.

    But why stop at Samsung and RIM? Just saying.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 9:39pm

    Junk Patent Problem

    This patent is yet another example of the junk patent problem.That problem will be with us for as long as the patent system still exists.

     

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    DoN0tReply (profile), Mar 20th, 2012 @ 3:22am

    Patent/Copyright status: Expired.

    Patents and Copyright hinder innovation, I therefore call for the scrapping of them as they no longer serve the spirit of the law associated with these things.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 20th, 2012 @ 5:06am

    Stockpile your :-) s and :-( s, we are gonna need them in the near future!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2012 @ 8:30am

    I am curious if anyone noticed the complaint recited the pendency of a lawsuit between Samsung as plaintiff/patent holder and Apple as an alleged infringer. The patent? Emoticons on mobile devices, as is asserted here against Samsung.

    For the benefit of those inclined to criticize the patent examiner, while I suspect that subjectively he probably felt the same way of most persons commenting here, he is bound by law to use objective evidence in considering the allowability of patent claims.

    I have no doubt there is objective evidence residing somewhere. The difficulty, however, is finding it, a task that is not as easy as many seem inclined to believe.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Mar 20th, 2012 @ 2:57pm

    Ridiculous patents

    This is Congress at work. They decided the USPTO should be self-supporting, and since they regularly dip into USPTO funds (they say they no longer do that ...), they have put pressure on the USPTO to generate as much funding as possible. The present Director, David Kappos, is doing just that; killing small entity patenting (they pay half-price; can't have that!!), and putting the award for a patent up for sale. Give the USPTO enough money (and there are multiple "legal" ways) and you can patent anything - say, motherhood.

     

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    aikiwolfie, Mar 20th, 2012 @ 4:16pm

    Didn't all the messenger apps back in the mid 90's, early 2000's all have emoticon buttons? Actually come to think of it the VBulletin forum software has a whole page that shows you all the emoticons available to you on whichever site it's powering and lets you click the emoticon and it then magically appears in your text box.

    I remember quite clearly Netscape's e-mail client also had a button for inserting smilies.

    This "invention" or "innovation" wasn't just obvious. Everybody was already doing it. The USPTO seriously needs to be sued for incompetence on the job.

     

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