One might assume that emoticons are as common as tissues or drawing a smiley face on the screen. After all you were probably typing cute little smiley faces in email long before you had a “smartphone”. That’s all well and good, except for one a smartphone manufacturer like Samsung or RIM/Blackberry wants to make using and choosing emoticons easier.
A firm called Varia Mobile, and it’s patent holding group Varia Holdings, lay claim to the pop up button on the smartphone handset that serves up a a list of emoticons that you can enter into an email, instant message or text message. Yes, this convenience factor that brightens up people’s days is now part of a patent war.
More after the break
The emoticon patent was filed in 2005 and granted in 2007 to a Seattle based company called Wildseed that was acquired by AOL. Varia Mobile was actually the receiver of the patent and when they were divested by AOL in September of 2007 they took that emoticon patent with them. In the suit Varia Mobile writes;
“It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications… often involve the use of emoticons, such as the ‘smiling face’ or the ‘sad face,'” the patent says. “However, few email or instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications.” The plaintiff, Varia Holdings Inc., claims it owns the concept of allowing users to choose emoticons from a menu of options rather than typing them out one character at a time.
Samsung and a laundry list of phones including the Nexus S, Acclaim, Epic, Galaxy Nexus and Transformer are at the receiving end of this patent suit. RIM’s Blackberry models Bold, Curve, Pearl and Storm are also named in the suit.
Although this suit may sound frivolous now that Varia has made it, it needs to have it’s day in court. It almost seems as petty as a patent suit involving using rechargeable batteries in a mobile phone. Motorola probably holds that one.