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Despair Suing 7,000,000 Email Users Over :-( 219

Calle Ballz writes "According to an article on Despair's Website, they are suing 7,000,000 email users over trademark infringment for using the :-( 'emoticon'. I can't tell if it is a joke or not, I would like for it to be. The trademark registration is valid and is listed here. *sigh*" I would just like to say that our use of :-) is covered by fair usage. And that this is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.Update: 01/26 04:18 PM by H :Check out the press release about it - that's one of the best pieces of satire I've seen in a while. Kudos to Despair for making a mockery of trademarks. Update: 01/29 04:52 PM by CT : Apparently a bunch of retarded Slashdot readers couldn't discern that this was parody and mailed despair to complain. Little itchy on the flaming finger guys? Here's the NY Times story
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Despair Suing 7,000,000 Email Users Over :-(

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  • I distinctly remember having made a cat exercise, by reflecting sunlight on my watch and directing the lightspot in the vicinity of the cat.
    Also used it to annoy people by directing it to their eyes.
    Yeah I know, sunlight is everything but coherent, but i think this would classify as prior art... of course I'm not USian, so...

  • :-( (tm) That sucks.
  • Here in Israel one of the large ISPs (Internet Gold) is using ":-)" emoticon as his logo, so it's probably trademarked too. Though they use it as black symbol on yellow backgound only, very unusual for comptuer screen. And I'm always using :) anyway...
  • Taco posted the story at 1424, and I am reading it at 1439. But the weird thing is that Hemos's update is timestamped at 1618. How'd he do that?
  • Quote: "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints"

    It's a definite hoax, even if they were nuts enough to try they couldn't associate it with email since it isn't 'printed matter'.
  • Uh...if you follow the link, the trademark HAS been granted. It's just that Despair has a better sense of proportion than to actually sue people for using it in daily life.
  • >That is not how Intellectual Property law works.
    >You can use the trademark all you want. You can
    >paint it on your house, you can sell posters on
    >it. A registered trademark just means that the
    >holder can sue you for it, and collect damages.

    Uhm. Think about what you just wrote.

    That is not how [Controlled Substance] law works. You can [sell crack] all you want. You can [pass it out at school yards], you can sell [big chunks of] it. A [Controlled Substance law] just means that the [police] can [arrest] you for it, and [send you to a pound-me-in-the-ass penitentiary].

    The trademark DOES mean you CAN'T USE IT without fear of legal repercussions.

    As someone pointed out, the only laws that tell you what you "can't do" in the sense that you're using are the physical laws of the universe.

    Granted, in this case, it's all a big joke - Despair, Inc couldn't care less what silly emoticons you use.

    But they sure could have made a fortune off those AOL folks...

  • ohmigod, that's a great idea

    patent the blink tag, sue it off the face of the web

    yes! we shall turn the evil forces of patent law to good!

    um, or something

  • Ha! I can show prior art (pictures of my father, a laser pointer and my cat, back when I was 15 -- 1993! )

  • >%(

    Hell, I've got a whole alternate mineshaft full of drunken, extremely bored lawyers sittin' around playin' with themselves, all 300 of whom would probably like nothing better than to sue ya blue for any trumped up reason I care to give 'em.

    Really, these mugs make the MPAA's goons look like a bunch of freakin' gucci-shoed panty-waists!

    So go ahead, emoticon-boy, make my day...
  • Funny...

    I could swear that I submitted this EXACT SAME STORY not two weeks ago.

    Oh well... phocked over again.

    Robert Dumas (
  • that a corporation somewhat grounded in reality, and with a sense of humor is rare enough to stand out and be noticeable. Dispair should start an executive exchange program.
  • with half a brain read even half of that page and not know that it's blatant satire? Geez guys....I am REALLY starting to wonder about the editors. Do you even read the stuff before you post it and then fix it with an "UPDATE:" after you look at it? That's just poor!

  • There is some French jerk who copyrighted the smiley face several years ago. His copyright has been ignored in the US, so Wal-Mart and others continue to use smiley faces in advertising and on merchandise. But I understand that it's hard to find the ubiquitous smiley face in Europe, since he demands royalties to any European company that want to use "his" logo.
  • I'll register "News for Dolts, S*it that don't change", trademark :-( for my logo and then sue for trademark dilution! I'll be rich, rich I say!
  • by goten ( 36521 )
    :( DOH!
  • Funny time zone things...
    I see Taco @ 02:18PM (1424), Hemos @ 04:18PM (1618)... I'm reading this @ 3:37PM (local = CST), with your post listed at 2:40PM (1440)...

    But I do believe that Hemos can time travel, but only with Norby's help...
  • In other news, online retailer has issued a press release on their patenting of 1-Click Emoticons. founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has announced, "1-Click Emoticions are the fastest, easiest way to send emoticions to more then 7 million people worldwide." No new lawsuits have, as yet, been announced.

  • >Check out This insane patent which is referenced
    > in the press release. I almost burst a gut!

    Not a cat gut, I hope. I think that method is patented.
  • I can't believe the poster was dumb enough to fall for it and then Mr. Taco was dumb enough to post it in the "Patents" category instead of "It's funny, laugh". Lately slashdot has been so eager to provide us with the "Late Breaking News" that gets enough banner-ad clickthroughs to somehow save VA from bankruptcy, that they'll post un{spell,grammar}checked stuff constantly and often - as in this case - not even read what they're posting links to. Praise to the American educational system, which has majors in SciFi, classes on Madonna, and graduates like Cmdr. Taco.
  • As stated at the article, someone patened "US5443036: Method of exercising a cat []"

    "A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct."

    Hmm... how the hell did someone get that patent??
  • it was probably filed by an idiot... actually thats pretty obvious by the fact he patented it... but he probably thinks the light is invisible since you dont really see the beam until it hits an object or if you shoot it through smoke/dust
  • first off, your PS wont get you sued, they own the trademark on
    and anyway, if you read the article , its a joke. Yes they do own the trademark, but they arent suing people. And even if they decided to they cant, they own the trademark so companies cant put :-( in their logo and print it on stuff, but not using :-( in emails or any other text.
  • First off, you should have titled it ":-( Emoticon Trademarked By", they like when every word is capitalized. Next, did you mention how it would effect linux? Something like "Imagine the lawsuits with all the coders who have :-( in their comments", would work sufficiently.

    That's how I've gotten my stories posted. :)
  • by MrP- ( 45616 )
    the pic where he is with those 3 other people, it totally looks fake
  • They do own the patent (see ntry=75502288) ... but they arent suing over it... not yet anyway :)


    Let's see if they sue slashdot over the above :)
  • I think an overzealous reader may have read a paragraph or 2 on that page, because if you scroll down, it is obviously a parody side in the same vain as "The Onion" and the like.

    So, EVERYONE will have to pay me $0.01USD per 100 letters EVER USED out of the Alphabet. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is represented by these characters:

    abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCEDFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV WX YZ

    Furthermore, I claim the patent for the numbers 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 and any combination that can be produced by concatenation of any of those digits.

    That means when you write source code or HTML or XML or anything like that, YOU HAVE TO PAY ME!!

  • by Szoup ( 61508 )
    It's also important for everyone to know that Pr0n® is now a registered trademark of the Pr0n® corporation, so any use of it not authorized by Pron&reg or it's subsidiary companies (Smut®, Hot Buns®, etc) will be persecuted to the fullest extent.

    That's right, I said persecuted buddy! Screw the legal crap.
  • by Szoup ( 61508 )
    Sounds to me like someone is pissed off they didn't think of it first...
  • I can't believe that none of my fellow geeks noticed the fact that every photo in the story was heinously doctored in Photoshop -- a 10 year old child could tell you that they don't look right! The masking is substandard, among other things.

    CmdrTaco needs a swift boot to the head. He also needs to READ THE ARTICLES BEFORE HE BLOODY POSTS THEM! If the Slashdot staff, including CmdrTaco, don't have the time or energy to read the stories they're posting, they have no right to post opinionated commentary with the stories on the front page...they can save it for the comments subpages like all of the rest of the ignorant pigs that post prematurely on Slashdot.

  • Not to be TOO big a whiner, but I posted this story YESTERDAY... And it was rejected. What gives?

    2001-01-25 19:52:59 :-( emoticon trademarked by (articles,news) (rejected)
  • I feel better now. I think the Prozac is wearing off...

    Dive Gear []
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They own a trademark, not a patent. Trademarks are limited to one field of use, so we have Apple Computer and Apple Records, Sun Microsystems and Sun Oil Company. What the trademark means is that no other company can use :-( as their corporate logo, and that's all. This is completely legitimate.

    The reason that we are now having such trouble over trademarks is that trademark owners are trying to leverage their limited control over the use of a word (in a specific business) to an unlimited control (use in unrelated fields, like domain names of businesses in a completely different line of work). The ICANN is headed for a legal fall Real Soon Now because of this (their attempt to expand trademark law even though they have no right to do so).

  • IANAL, but if the article weren't satire (or probably even though it is), the trademark is quite vulnerable to challenge. Recall that Bayer lost the trademark over "aspirin" because the term had become one used generically by a large portion of the public, rather than as a trade name for a specific product.

    In this case, the generic use of emoticons greatly predates the trademark (allegedly applied for in 1998): According to ESR's _The New Hacker Dictionary_, 2nd Ed (1993),

    ...used to indicate an emotional state in email or news... are virtually required under certain circumstances in high-volume text-only communications forums...

    ...are in common use. These include...


    It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on the CMU bboard systems around 1980...

    So: invalid, indefensible trademark-- already in use as a generic even before the trademark application.

  • As much as I enjoy the humor involved, it does show what's right with trademark registration. Notice that they have a fairly narrow mandate for using their trademark -- "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints." So, no one else can use :-( to sell posters. Patents may have their problems, but trademarks have been fairly limited, especially since the Apple (Records/Compter) lawsuit.
  • No, what's truly amazing is that no one has patented the < blink > tag yet.

    Yes, I know, it's all just a matter of time . . .


  • or a cynical attempt to increase their audience greatly?

    [shrug] Maybe not "or" but "and". So?

    (Was this an insightful comment by me, or a cynical attempt to get moderated up?)

  • or the power of large people in stupid groups :-(

  • could that person really not tell this was a joke?

    that's sad, as in :, -, (,
  • Some of my co-workers seem to suffer from a lack of the intelligence needed to realize this is satire.
  • Only people with a mental deficiency (the inability to recognize even the most blatantly obvious heavy-handed satire as such unless they literally read the words "this is satire") are fooled by such things.
    We're talking about even more mentally deficient induhviduals here, since the page does include the words Articles and items appearing in our "Recent Spin" are satirical, and they still didn't understand that this was satire.
  • Check out This insane patent [] which is referenced in the press release. I almost burst a gut!

  • I have been granted a trademark for "8======D". That's right. I've patented the ACSII Jimmy. I've also been granted a trademark for a series of X's and O's. ie, xoxoxoxo. Here me oh porn sites. Pay up now or suffer my wrath!


  • While it is nice to be cynical about things, the falsehood (that is, the satirical nature) of the report was apparent on its face. Do the editors truly think that this story was on the level?

    Be real.
  • While there are those who would be pleased to make that claim, that "the current state of intellectual property law is so egregious that intelligent people might actually believe," that's hokum -- sheer demagoguery. No well-educated and intelligent person could buy this story on its face.

    While it is "politically correct" in this forum to be anti-IP, and to make things laughable, it is critical to recall that hysteria is one of the traits most effectively used by the pro-strong-IP forces to marginalize and discredit critics of overreaching.

    Simply put, it is not really a great idea to try to fight an intellectual war where you are weakest. There are strong anti-IP arguments. This isn't one of them.

    Anyone who pretends otherwise is selling something.
  • Very true - it makes me wonder if it would be possible to file a "counter patent" by "innovating" with a "visible beam", or get the patent overturned because of validity due to the fact that laser beams are visible...

    You are right - the filer is an idiot...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • Coming back a little late on this (was on vacation, no net connection - but it actually was quite nice)...

    Anyhow, thank you for correcting me - I was thinking a CO2 type laser setup, forgetting the IR lasers used in CD players and such...

    Sometimes dumb thoughts come out of me...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • I'm not sure if it has ever been noticed before in earlier postings about this patent on /. - but did you notice the line in the patent that reads:

    A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser...

    Invisible light? Is this the innovation in the patent?

    Note that most typical laser pointers project visible light, generally 635 or 670nm, which is a bright red. For a laser pointer to generate invisible light, it would have to be a UV or IR laser.

    Does anyone know where I could get a UV or IR laser, in a sleek pen form factor?

    Ok, I am being sarcastic (these types of lasers tend to be on the large side of things) - but I have to wonder about the wording of this patent. It really seems absurd...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • >The Onion may be the premier parody newspaper,
    >but Despair, Inc is a corperation...they're not
    >supposed to rip on people like Microsoft, Apple,
    >and Fry's Electronics. That wouldn't be
    >Politically Correct of them!

    We should all give a tip o' the hat to they put "Windows 95 officially debuts (1995)" on their 1999 calendar August 24 entry.

    For those who don't know, calendars have a variety of tidbits put in some of the days of each month, chronicling something bad that happened that day in history.

  • although they are making fun of it...they really do (or will soon) own the trademark for it...

    just like /. (tm)

    it's pretty sad and funny. it's :| maybe?
  • When I called it "beautiful" I was not being sarcastic.

    Thanks for the clarification. And for what it's worth, I'm a tad pissed off, as well.
  • I don't know. We have seen a judge rule that something is still 'secret', even after being published worldwide on the Internet and numerous other media (including T-shirts!), taught in college courses, and still available from hundreds of sites at the click of a mouse.

    When the courts pervert IP law to that extent, what depths of absurdity are needed to make something incredible?
  • Hey, thanks! Now I can stop feeling irate about my submission of this story getting rejected three days ago... You're the deserving one, not I. Though perhaps it was my including of that actual trademark page that confused them. Too much information to check out.

    (Though that's not the record...I submitted the "sugar eating Robot" thing last September, but those in charge didn't find an acceptable version until January.)

  • What, you think I care?

    Now THAT is funny...
  • Consider this: if CmdrTaco had posted it with the foot icon and said, "boy is this a real funny joke!" he would have spoiled it. The enjoyment of satire comes in part from the discovery that it isn't true. Some people never attain that level of satisfaction, unfortunately.

    I don't know if that's what he was thinking, but I think I should get a "No Prize" for it. I like to read the occasional Slashdot post that serves more as a link than a pre-packaged, categorized, analyzed news blurb. Then I form my own judgement and proceed to bore myself to tears reading what all of the hysterical ACs have to say about it.

    By the way, have you ever noticed that the people most likely to say, "Jeezus you moron, why don't you think a little before you post," are also the quickest to misjudge in exactly the same way? Funny.
  • Aww, I missed first post. :-(

  • Wonder how I earned 'Troll' status with that? I was trying to be funny, hence the :-( at the end.

  • There is a real Trademark, and it is quite reasonable. You can not use the frowny emoticon as representing your trade in business cards and artwork. ... I can't create a printing house and use the frowning logo.

    That is not how Intellectual Property law works. You can use the trademark all you want. You can paint it on your house, you can sell posters on it. A registered trademark just means that the holder can sue you for it, and collect damages.

    In this case, while they HAVE acquired :-( as a registered trademark, they are NOT using Carnivore to find infringers, they are NOT likely to care about your use of :-( at all. If ever, they'd only care about an egregious use of :-( as an identity mark to divert or confuse THEIR customers.

  • I like the bit about how they're using Carnivore to catch infringing users.
  • From 99.html []:

    In 1996 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) told the Girl Scouts of the USA that scout camps must start paying a licensing fee to sing any of the 4 million copyrighted songs that ASCAP controlled (Walker and Fagan). This included girl scout staples such as "Happy Birthday". Many camps went songless for months, until newspaper and talk show attention generated enough outrage that ASCAP was forced to say that they had no intention of prosecuting girl scout camps for violations of singing songs around the campfire. But in backing down, ASCAP still insisted that they still might prosecute camps for playing background music without a license. Though most citizens would bristle at ASCAP's attempts to charge the girl scouts, as a copyright holder the law is on their side, and the girl scouts' only defense would be fair use (but only as long as fair use remains a defense).

  • There is a real Trademark, and it is quite reasonable. You can not use the frowny emoticon as representing your trade in business cards and artwork. It is questionable if you can use it as an image in a poster, but I would imagine that prior art covers it.

    However, they have that logo. I can't create a printing house and use the frowning logo.

    I like there logo, and I thought the page was hysterical.
  • You mean to tell me they're not really going to make every one of the defendants write out ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." a thousand times by hand?

    Poop. I would have liked to see that.

    I have to confess that I was a _tiny_ bit suspicious when I read, "Whether you are a 4th grade nothing using your momma's AOL account, or you are Time Magazine's "Man of the Year", we are going to hunt you down, and when we do, we're really going to give you something to :-(® about."

    Ah well. I'll have to get my amusement elsewhere I guess.

  • An obvious hoax. C'mon, why do you think they call it a TRADEmark? You can't take a generally used word or symbol out of the public domain; you can only enjoin a specific and limited use. I can use the words hallmark and paramount, for example, even capitalizing them if I choose, and if it doesn't give a false impression to consumers I can't be successfully sued. Additionally, you generally can't have classes of unrelated defendants in a suit. That should have tipped you off. Even if you didn't know law, wouldn't you wonder how they got a list of millions of e-mail users who used the emoticon? Did they lease Carnivore? A little cogitation goes a long way, guys.
  • "In order to be inherently distinctive, the trade dress must be either arbitrary or suggestive..."

    But to be a valid trademark, the mark need not be inherently distinctive. Rather, it can acquire distinctiveness through use. This is why Coca-Cola can be a trademark despite being merely descriptive of the ingredients of the drink.

  • "Despair has also petitioned the court to require defendants to submit a handwritten letter which repeats the phrase ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." one-thousand times. A ruling on the petition is expected within a week."

    The trademark is real. It is probably even enforable on "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints", and for commercial purposes... The rest of the article is fake.
  • I guess you guys didn't get it. This is intended to be funny...

    Read the following line:

    Despair has also petitioned the court to require defendants to submit a handwritten letter which repeats the phrase ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." one-thousand times.

    Or how about the following? I think real lawyers would know the difference between a trademark and a patent...

    What is certain, however, is that it appears that someone has finally bested patent 5443036 for most ridiculous intellectual property filing in history."

    But I think this one is probably the funniest:

    he had personally taken Jeff Bezos and his wife to dinner, to congratulate him on his willingness to "take a innovative stand against innovation", and also to inform him that Bezos was amongst the 7,000,000 who had violated Despair's trademark.

  • Then why did he reject the exact same story when I submitted it a week ago?

    This hypocrisy bothers me. It would be one thing if he changed his mind and decided to post it, but to put it on the front page...

  • With the current state of the US legal system nothing would surprise me. Why would suing 7 million e-mail users be more unbelievable than some of the utterly stupid lawsuits we have come to see as natural in the last few years?
  • do you think he could sue any 8-year olds birthday party?

    Of course not. It's not a public performance.

    What about a movie it was sung in?

    MOST CERTAINLY. In fact, that's why that song is made up because at the time they were filming they didn't have the rights to use "Happy Birthday" in video, only the version released to so valuable (in terms of publishing rights). When they filmed the movie "Big" the crew had to film the birthday scene twice, once with "Happy Birthday" and once with some crappy song they had theatres.

  • You gotta love that Despair, Inc.

    First, the form a company around the idea of making really depressing versions of those inspirational new-agey posters...

    Then they advertize on Slashdot, the most popular geek website, and turn the Slash editors into shameless publicity whores for their company!

    Next, I'm sure they will hire Jon Katz to write a book about Despair, hailing them as representative of a wave of "New Media" or "Open Poster-Making" or maybe even "Post-Columbine Virtual Community Chickclickers" or something.

    Way to go, Despair! Keep fighting the bad fight.

  • This is why there is a large number of people working for Coca-Cola who go around the country stopping at restaurants and ordering a Coke, then sampling the order and sending it back to the Coca-Cola company for testing.

    Can you prove this?

  • Well, at least they got 30,000+ hits from /. readers.

    "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

  • that they apparently have an actual patent on the :-(. Go to their page, they have a link to the patent server, and they have registered it. So much for those who think the patent system isn't broken.

  • The ( is not the same charactor as ). Look it up in any ASCII table. That upside down would be (-:
  • Fine we can just quit using :-(

    There are many other wonderful ways to express sadness such as :(

    I think I should trademark :P....

  • I submitted this story during an extended period of time where I did not sleep. I was at work. I skimmed over the article, I thought it was a joke, but I didn't see the line that said it was a joke. I've noticed the flames, here is my response. With all of the similar lawsuits happening, it's hard to tell which stories are fake, and which ones are real. I thought that the pillsbury vs. sun was a joke until I read the article. It's too damn scary anymore.

  • Well, I guess I'll have to sue then, cause I used that emoticon back in 1979 in a copyrighted work that was transmitted over the Internet, when I was a student at SFU in Burnaby, B.C.

    Luckily for me I registered it with both the Library of Congress and the Canadian version thereof (even have the reg papers in a box in the attic).

    Interesting aside - maybe I should read through my published articles and journals and see if I have any more prior art I can use to deny MSFT and other baddies their key patents, since I have prior claim due to usage?

  • Okay, here's the deal with trademarks: A trademark is only valid so long as the entity registering the trademark continues to defend it. This is why there is a large number of people working for Coca-Cola who go around the country stopping at restaurants and ordering a Coke, then sampling the order and sending it back to the Coca-Cola company for testing. If it turns out they were not served a Coca-Cola, the restaurant is sent a cease-and-desist order. Obviously, the best scenario for a company is for the general populace to start using their trademarked name as a generic product name (Aspirin, Kleenex, etc) but to still nail any distributor that doesn't uphold the trademark.

    In summary, even though Despair, Inc does have a trademark on :-(, you are basically allowed to use it until you are told to stop by Despair.

    Just FYI.
  • The Register carried this story several days ago. There have been numerous references to it in slashdot posts over the last few days. Yawn.
  • by magic ( 19621 ) on Saturday January 27, 2001 @06:37AM (#479465) Homepage
    You might have also been tipped off by:
    Despair has also petitioned the court to require defendants to submit a handwritten letter which repeats the phrase ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." one-thousand times.
    Or the blatantly faked picture of the CEO with Jeff Bezos.

    Great article!


  • by brianvan ( 42539 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @10:31AM (#479466)
  • by DzugZug ( 52149 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:19PM (#479467) Journal
    ... rather than read the whole page I went to lexis-nexis to see if despair had in fact filed any suits in U.S. District court. They hadn't.
  • better watch out, or they'll sue you for that too!

    i smell a segfault article on this.....

  • by iElucidate ( 67873 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:28PM (#479469) Homepage
    ... rather than read the whole page I went to lexis-nexis to see if despair had in fact filed any suits in U.S. District court. They hadn't.
    Rather than go to Lexis/Nexis to find out of Despair really sued 7,000,000 people based on their e-mails harvested from Carnivore, I just thought about it for about...oh....maybe .0000001 second and figured it out myself.
  • by Maeryk ( 87865 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:26PM (#479470) Journal
    The truly scary part to *me* is that they *DID* grant a patent to two people from Arlington VA for a "method to exercise a cat" using a laser pointer.

    Which brings me to my next question.. if they can patent an action, can I patent masturbation? Think of the money maker there!

  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @10:41AM (#479471) Homepage
    Damn, and here I was getting ready to put the frowny on T-shirts and use the T-shirts as free speech argument to defend myself in court!
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @11:52AM (#479472) Homepage Journal
    The trademark *is* real. The lawsuit is not. I could tell that much from reading the bit on the front page of /. The key to the whole joke is that the trademark is real and while they don't work at Despair there are people [] out there who if they had thought of it would do the lawsuit. In fact I would not be surprised to see a similar but real thing in the near future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 26, 2001 @11:24AM (#479473)
    They can kiss my (_!_)
  • by Jim Tyre ( 100017 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @11:17AM (#479474) Homepage
    ... someone will try to trademark an expression as banal as "Good Dog!"

    Oh, someone [] did.

    But I think it's another joke.

    "In order to be inherently distinctive, the trade dress must be either arbitrary or suggestive..."

    (Cmdr)Taco Cabana Int'l, Inc. v. Two Pesos, Inc.
    932 F.2d 1113 (5th Cir. 1991)

  • by Goronguer ( 223202 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @11:10AM (#479475)
    I have just registered the trademark "Anonymous Coward." All who wish to post to Slashdot using that name should send US$1 to me for each use. Pay pal accepted.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 26, 2001 @11:12AM (#479476)
    of stupid people in large groups."

    Some people don't seem to get this is a joke. According to today's SJ Mercury, some people have been writing hate mail to Despair about it.

    Here's the link (see bottom of page)

    :-( to be henceforth known as 'the "Work'" redux: Those of you unsettled by an item in Thursday's column discussing's alleged trademarking of the :-( emoticon, take note: the article was satirical, as was my discussion of it. There's no need to lambaste and its CEO Justin Sewell.

    [An email from Despair follows]


    Thanks for your recent mention of our :-( trademark story in your "Good Morning Silicon Valley" column.

    It is somewhat unclear to me from reading your recent write-up whether or not you were aware that the article regarding the frown emoticon was a parody story. If you were aware of this, please forgive me for this email.

    Your article does state that we are satirists -- but afterwards seems to treat the matter of the lawsuit as though it were not a satirical gag. This seems to have created some confusion amongst the readership of your column, some of whom have contacted us in outrage asking passionately for their names to be added to the list of those we intend to sue. Heroic gestures, to be sure, but ultimately as futile as grabbing the family shotgun to fend off a Martian invasion being reported by Orson Wells.

    Best regards,
    Justin Sewell, CEO
    Despair, Inc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:00PM (#479477)
    An acquaintance of mine ran an (unsuccessful) t-shirt business a few years ago. one of his lines were Ts with the emoticons printed on them.

    He registered for and recieved copyright on all the emoticons.

    I sent him a copy of the story, but the sarcasm must have whizzed over his head. He sent this cease and decist letter to despair:

    To Whom it may concern,

    Be aware that the :-( symbol has been copywrited previous to your use as a trademark. The use of this symbol as graphic art (ie. T-shirts, posters, mugs, etc.) will be considered copywrite infringement. Please contact me if you wish to use this symbol in any context. If this symbol is being used in this context current you are to cease and desist.

    Thank You,
    [name omitted purposely to protect the guilty]

    Pathetic, isn't it?

  • Trademarks are in general a good thing, they at some level protect us the consumers. Or at least they are suposed to. When you see a red can with "Coca-Cola" written on it you know that it really is "Coca-Cola" and not something else. No one but the Coca-Cola company has a right to sell a can of stuff called "Coca-Cola". You can sell "MyCola" all you want and even put it in a red can.

    Similarly many things like endorcements that you see on products (Such as the Circle-U on foods or the ADA label on toothpaste) Can only work due to trademarks.

    Now I will admit in some cases the Enforcement of trademarks has gone to far.
  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @10:41AM (#479479) Homepage

    No intelligent people ever believed that the trademark holder was going to sue 7,000,000 email users. Only people with a mental deficiency (the inability to recognize even the most blatantly obvious heavy-handed satire as such unless they literally read the words "this is satire") are fooled by such things.

    Unfortunately several of the Slashdot editors suffer from said mental deficiency, as do way too many Slashdot readers.

  • by smirkleton ( 69652 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:01PM (#479480)
    See for your selves. []

    On a separate note...

    I am AMAZED at how many idiots there are that don't seem to be able to realize that this story is MAKING FUN OF FRIVILOUS LAWSUITS by PRETENDING TO BE ONE.

    I have to revise my opinion of the average intelligence of the readership of slashdot WAAAAAY down.

    Ask yourself, outraged nimrods, if you really believe the following things are TRUE.

    1) A company that sells PARODY products is actually working with the FBI to MONITOR YOUR EMAIL.
    2) The PARODY company in question is SERIOUSLY planning to sue 7,000,000 people.
    3) The founder of that company is SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING changing his name to :-(
    4) The SAME person also is suing JEFF BEZOS for infringing on a trademark.
    5) The DISCLAIMER at the bottom of the story is actually NOT TRUE.

    Did you read any of the OTHER STORIES [] on the website?

    Do you REALLY believe they are partnering with Yahoo [] to create BOOHOO.COM- a portal for miserable people?
    Do you REALLY believe Noah Wylie is the interim CEO of FUTURE POWER []

    The only story on their entire site that I might ACTUALLY believe is the one about selling 5000 Apathy posters to Fry's []. That I believe.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @10:34AM (#479481) Homepage Journal

    From the writeup, "I can't tell if this is a joke or not."

    From the page itself, Articles and items appearing in our "Recent Spin" are satirical and are not intended to be an accurate portrayal of the persons, companies or events depicted within them.

    This is SATIRE. Put on your thinking caps, people, or geez, read the whole thing! The CEO also claims he's considering changing his legal name to the frowney emoticon. Yeah right.

  • by aggressivepedestrian ( 149887 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @10:34AM (#479482)
    Yeah, it's funny, until you realize that the current state of intellectual property law is so egregious that intelligent people might actually believe a trademark would be granted for the emoticon, and that the trademark holder might actually sue 7,000,000 email users.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly