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Cingular Patents the Emoticon? 231

massysett writes "Mobile phone carrier Cingular Wireless may have managed to get a patent on the emoticon. The patent describes a system for selecting a displayable icon to indicate the mood or emotion of the user. It also covers text-based emoticons, 'so presumably sending :) via an SMS - if selected via a dedicated or softkey, would be a breach of the patent in future.'" My response? >:/
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Cingular Patents the Emoticon?

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  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <slashdot AT uberm00 DOT net> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:06PM (#14570789) Homepage Journal
    Prior art! []
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:07PM (#14570799) Homepage

    They can stick that patent in their (_|_). []
  • Patent review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:07PM (#14570800) Homepage
    They really need to beef up their standards for patent review. Stuff like this should never even get through. People shouldn't have to spend money battling these patents in court. I think cingular should be fined for even submitting a patent which is quite obviously not novel, and just an attempt to patent something that's already used everywhere in order to squeeze money out of others
    • There is no reference to any actual patent number within that page. Rather a published patent application. No need to get up in a huff yet.

      US2006015812 is not a patent number, merely a publication number.
      • by HDlife ( 714246 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:36PM (#14571219)
        The APPLICATION NUMBER is 20060015812

        This just published and is years from becoming a patent. This is just a laundry list of claims that they want, not that they will get.

        You can see it here: []

        • I think the point is that it wastes resource. Companies should be fined for trying this on. Sometime they might slip something through when no-one is looking. It's sneaky.

        • Sorry, too many slashes in the link in my previous post. Here is the direct link to the patent: USPTO link []

          Applications publish 18 months after their submission date. Likely, nobody has even looked at this yet.

          Now read the claims in the patent. Everything else is just informative (mainly).

          To save you the trouble, here are the only independent claims. All the others just narrow them down. When you read them, they are nothing exciting. They are just trying to patent the method that their phones use f

          • Darn, I am spreading misinformation because I followed someone else's link.

            What I posted above is the old ATT patent on this, filed in 2001 and just granted. Very narrow anyway.

            The one referenced in the article is application #20060015812 which is even narrower!

            link []

            This new one is just for:

            At a mobile device, a method for generating a displayable icon that indicates the mood or emotion of a user of the mobile station, the method comprising: providing an emoticon key that is to be selected by a u

    • They would have got a 'F' on hydrodynamics or something and Math was utterly beyond them so they get their revenge by screwing with a history of incremental improvements (you're gonna get sued,) or revolutionary ideas (Okay, there aren't any revolutionary ideas... Really.)

      You end up 'needing' layers of lawyers to cushion you from the blows of other lawyers.

      Shakespeare had it right: "First thing we do," says one of the followers of the rebel Jack Cade in Henry VI, Part II, "is kill all the lawyers."
    • Re:Patent review (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:56PM (#14571551) Journal
      What they need to do is to a) fine the living shit out of a company that tries to pull one of these patents (I figure 50% of their gross earnings over the last five years is a good start) and then b) forbid them, any subsidiary and any company that shares any member of the board from filing any patent for ten years. If they attempted to take so much as one person to court over licensing, that person should immediately receive fifty thousand times the licensing fee that was demanded of them.

      Perhaps when a few pension funds and other shareholders lose their shirts over patent scams, they'll make damn good and sure that nothing like this happens again.

  • Been done (Score:4, Interesting)

    by taustin ( 171655 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:07PM (#14570802) Homepage Journal
    This patent will conflict with's [] registered trademark, won't it?
    • Nope. This is one of those "$foo ... on the Internet!" patents where $foo is something well-known. In this case it's "$foo ... on a mobile phone", but same diff.

      So's trademark doesn't conflict with the patent. However, I would love to see threaten to sue them for trademark infringement when certain smileys are sent using their system.
  • by Benanov ( 583592 ) <brian,kemp&member,fsf,org> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:08PM (#14570817) Journal

    You know, it looks like it's another one of those “we're doing X, but on the internet” patents, except this time it's on a phone.

    I thought that I had lost all hope in the patent system some time ago, but I just lost more.

  • This is simply... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:08PM (#14570821) Homepage
    ...another reason that the Patent system needs to be revised and or rebuilt.

        Activating an emoticon from tapping one key is NO different then activating something via a single Macro key, which has been used in applications and games for ages.

        Writing a series of symbols out to be displayed as an emoticon is also soemthing that has been performed for ages.

        Seriously, when will this patent frenzy of stupidity end?
  • by rlp ( 11898 )
    I suspect the use of emoticons in UseNet predates the existence of Cingular.
    • UseNet, FIDONet (Score:2, Informative)

      by bwcbwc ( 601780 )
      Both pre-date the WWW, which pre-dates text messaging over the phone. In fact, technically, dial-up IS text messaging over the phone. Anyone who used an ANSI art drawing tool or a macro key on their terminal emulator back in the 1200 bps modem days could define macros to generate emoticons. So the only possible basis for this that I can see is the fact that it's over the phone or if they substitute special characters for the emoticon text (i.e., an actual happy face for :) ).

      Every single previous platform
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:08PM (#14570828)
    "There Is No Emoticon For What I Am Feeling!"
  • by unterderbrucke ( 628741 ) * <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:09PM (#14570838)
    The article, even the summary, clearly indicates all they are patenting is the process of using a smiley on the phone/sending it. They are NOT patenting the smiley, that's just an inflammatory headline used to create negative response.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The article, even the summary, clearly indicates all they are patenting is the process of using a smiley on the phone/sending it

      Oh, OK. When you put it like that, it sounds like a legitimate use of the patent system. Novel, non-trivial, non-obvious, and all that.
    • The article, even the summary, clearly indicates all they are patenting is the process of using a smiley on the phone/sending it. They are NOT patenting the smiley, that's just an inflammatory headline used to create negative response.

          Don't get me wrong, but how's that different? I've been using smileys in SMSs for years - yes, the 'frowny' one they mention in the article too. Could i patent the use of smileys on IRC conversations aswell? I would be rich!
    • The article, even the summary, clearly indicates all they are patenting is the process of using a smiley on the phone/sending it. They are NOT patenting the smiley, that's just an inflammatory headline used to create negative response.

      And yet that doesn't make it any less ridiculous. Look, the original emoticons were around from the beginning of USENET [] and have been co-opted in all sorts of garish ways. They have become ubiquitous and you can't patent something that is such. This just points out how stupi

    • Oh, that makes it better. Because when you put it that way, it's really non-obvious and I'm sure nobody ever thought of doing it before.
    • I didn't realize that my cappuccino machine violates patent laws only if it's placed next to a south-facing window. That view is mighty tasty!
    • because what they're trying to do is patent a _F***ING_ _MENU_!!!

      IM softwares have menus for easy selection of emoticons, and they have this for years by now. heck, even if the patent's only valid for cell phones, my 2 yr old nokia 3200 already have this, and this model was already old news when i bought it.

      so, unless cingular can prove that they're the ones who invented _MENUS_ on a computer (and they didn't. menus have been in use since before cingular even existed), they can pretty much shove it.
    • Sometimes... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) *
      "they are patenting is the process of using a smiley on the phone/sending it."

      Actually, now that I think of it, your interpretation makes the patent seem worse.

      Here's why...

      If they got a patent on emoticons, you could justify it by saying "The patent examiner never heard of emoticons, ah ha!"

      Instead, this indicates they knew about emoticons and felt that sending an emoticon was sufficiently unique that it deserved patent protection. In otherwords, the examiner was so stupid that they thought
  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:09PM (#14570844) Homepage Journal
    I always though /. was suposed to be Cmdr Taco pissed off and standing on his head, cause, he's only got one eye ya know.

    -Rick (Just Kidding!)
  • At first, my reaction was :O but I'm guessing a lot of us are >:( but as world government bodies are getting tired of the US patenting everything from berries to sounds :^o we sign in their general direction with our tongue firmly in cheek :p
  • Come on. Just... come on.

    These people aren't actually "inventing" anything. They're just taking something obvious, like binding a macro to a hotkey and pretending it's an innovation. It's trivial. You shouldn't have to face the possibility for paying licensing for trivial things.

    But then, this is hardly news to anyone here, is it? Just another line in a book of examples of the abuse of patents.

  • (_|_) (_/_) (_|_) (_\_) (_|_)


    (Homer) "Kiss my fat hairy yellow ass" (/homer)
  • by Hershmire ( 41460 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:13PM (#14570888) Homepage
  • Now when we finally revolt aginst the sappy emoticons we will have a target to attack;-)
  • by ChartBoy ( 626444 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:17PM (#14570929)
    The "patent number" cited in the article is not a patent number. It is an application number (the US has recently started publishing applications in keeping with the rest of the world). This is the application [].

    US utility patent numbers have sequential numbers and are currently in the 6 million range. Application numbers have a year (2006) and a serial number within the year (15812).

  • Didn't microsoft already do this? link []

    Maybe the differences are SMS vs IM
  • From the Abstract of the actual application []:

    A method and system for generating a displayable icon or emoticon form that indicates the mood or emotion of a user of the mobile station. A user of a device, such as a mobile phone, is provided with a dedicated key or shared dedicated key option that the user may select to insert an emoticon onto a display or other medium. The selection of the key or shared dedicated key may result in the insertion of the emoticon, or may also result in the display of a collectio

  • Verizon, not to be outdone, patents the "Send" button
  • I searched for that patent number (US2006015812) at and found no results. So the number must be off. I dropped the US too.

    It's important to read the patent. So many people don't know how to read patents but still just go off on wild tagents.
    • It is 6,990,452 [].

      I am certain this is the patent referred to in the article. It was granted yesterday. It took the Patent Office 5 years to grant it!
      • Thanks! So it looks like they have a patent on making it easier to send an emoticon - far from actually patenting them...
        • Yeah. The title of the original article is a little hysterical. Of course, there is tons of prior art on what they patented. It is also obvious.

          If they're going to approve patents like this, why not do it in 5 minutes, rather than 5 years?
    • Go to the USPTO homepage and search for "Published Applications" by publication number, dropping the "US" and just entering the 2006... number. They have separate search pages for Issued Patents and mere applications.
  • The article references patent number US2006015812. The USPTO site says that number does not exist, and a search for the word "Emoticon" in patents [] gives 14 hits, none of them matching the story... and a few of them arguably providing prior art!
  • Instant messaging is pretty prolific these days so I would think that a pretty large cross-section of their demographic is aware of "emoticons". Wouldn't this kinda look like a money-grab? I can't imagine a positive reponse to something like this. Seems that it will inevitably be shot down as prior art anyways. Difficult to see what they expect to ultimately gain.
  • I saw my first emoticon back in 1987 or 1988 on an informal BBS run by my University's library. I had no idea what the little :) meant until I happened to tilt my head.

    Doesn't this qualify as "prior art", or am I missing something important here?
  • Emoticons are over 25 years old []. If they had been patented in the first place, the patent would have expired by now, anyway.
  • MSN Messenger with a touchscreen would be prior art, and I *know* people have used MSN Messenger with a touchscreen - the problem is, I can't *prove* it so they'll have to stop doing it now.
  • by TheDoctor_MN ( 669362 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:25PM (#14571054)
    Okay, everyone take a deep breath. Though the original post says this is a patent, it is not. It is a patent application. Anyone can file whatever they want, and it will get published as a patent application in 18 months. ANYTHING. I could write something up for "kissing up to my boss" and it would get published. This application has yet to see an examiner, who will in all likelihood reject it pretty much as quickly as you all have based on a slew of prior art out there. Check back in two or so odd years to see if this issues or not. Link to the full text... TO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2F srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220060015812%22.PGN R.&OS=DN/20060015812&RS=DN/20060015812 []
  • First Use (Score:5, Informative)

    by jmkaza ( 173878 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:27PM (#14571082)
    19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
    From: Scott E Fahlman

    I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)

    Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
    things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(
  • My response? >:/
    :( :( :(
    :( :>(

    Just had :( to get that out :( (without upsetting the lameness filter) while I still could. :(
  • They were a little too specific I think, look at this.

    system for selecting a displayable icon to indicate the mood or emotion of the user

    For this patent to work can they prove this was actually *your* mood/emotion? If so and the mood you conveyed != actual mood then would it be a part of the patent? Or consider this SMS "are you :'( ?" If that was not my emotion then is it ok?

    By patenting a description of the senders emotions and actually centering out that only the senders emotions/moods will b
  • fight any suit arising from this citing "prior art" which I think should make the patent null.

    35 U.S.C. 103 Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter (a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having

  • The wonderful patent they show is not a patent, but a Published Application. How do I know this? The number starts 2006. This means it is a Pre-Grant Publication (PGPUB) that was published in 2006. If it were a Patent it would have a number in sequential order with other patents, which would make it something along the lines of the high 6 millions or low 7 millions for a number (assuming recent approval).

    So stop the panicking, stop the whining, and check the facts of articles and summaries on slashdot b
  • by XLawyer ( 68496 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:39PM (#14571269) Homepage

    Cingular has not received any patent such as the article describes. The number that appears in the article, US2006015812, is actually a publication number for a U.S. patent application. The application itself [] can be found on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's web site [].

    Not only is this only an application for a patent, and not only has this application not yet been granted, but the PTO hasn't even examined it yet. (You can look up the status of the application yourself using PAIR [].)

    Cingular is not going to wind up with a patent that will stop you from using smileys in you text messages. In fact, on a quick read, the claims and specification appear to discuss ways to make it easier to insert emoticons in your text, not the mere use of emoticons. And the patent examiners, despite what you may have heard, are pretty tough about claims like this, too.

    In short, it looks like the writer of the article dropped the ball here, not the U.S. Patent Office.

  • The patent number in the article is incorrect. The correct number is 20060015812. The abstract is as follows -

    "A method and system for generating a displayable icon or emoticon form that indicates the mood or emotion of a user of the mobile station. A user of a device, such as a mobile phone, is provided with a dedicated key or shared dedicated key option that the user may select to insert an emoticon onto a display or other medium. The selection of the key or shared dedicated key may result in the ins

    • Even as specific as this wording is, Nokia have been doing that for years. If I hold down asterix on my phone during 'create text message' mode (to get to the symbols menu), then press it again, I get a menu of smileys...
  • Title wrong, RTA (Score:3, Informative)

    by rnelsonee ( 98732 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:47PM (#14571392)
    First off, you can't get a patent on ":)". A trademark, yes, but not a patent.

    The patent referenced is for the process of sending the emoticon. More specifically, there would be a way insert the way someone is feeling via a special button, or some other method other than saying "I'm feeling happy". Typing in ":)" doesn't even fall into this patent since that's just typing in characters. But if T-Mobile came out with phones that had smiley-faced buttons that inserted a smiley face while typing an SMS, then that could violate this patent.

    • So they've patented "using one button to represent having pressed two or more buttons". Wouldn't the use of icons be prior art? How about the "Caps Lock" key?
  • by hcg50a ( 690062 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:49PM (#14571418) Journal
    TFA had a bogus number.

    Check the actual patent [] out.
    • Nope, this is wrong.

      It's only a patent application, not an actual patent.

      See this comment [].
    • That is not the patent application that TFA is talking about. Patent number 6,990,452 has the following people listed as inventors and is assigned to AT&T:

      Ostermann; Joern (Morganville, NJ); Civanlar; Mehmet Reha (Middletown, NJ); Cosatto; Eric (Highlands, NJ); Graf; Hans Peter (Lincroft, NJ); LeCun; Yann Andre (Lincroft, NJ)

      Whereas patent application number 20060015812 has only two inventors and is (or will be) assigned to Cingular Wireless:

      Cunningham; Ivy; (Seattle, WA) ; White; Christopher; (Re

  • by meggito ( 516763 )
    The US Patent System is a joke. There really isn't anything more to it than that. We patent everything then insist other countries respect our patents. Then when they dont we take away their allowance.
  • There is no emoticon for what I'm feeling!
  • I thought this would be a great opportunity to see a lot of creative emoticons in the comments ^.^, but I am disappointed. -.-
  • Acronyms? L33t speak?

    I'm sure if they tried it most people would just LOL or say WTFE!
  • What's the emoticon for extending someone the middle finger? Otherwise knows as the Hawaiian Good Luck Gesture.

    How are we ever going to be able to agree on the meaning without an emoticon standard?

  • : ) ----see how the extra space makes it even more happier and avoids the copyrighted sequence.

          Though the amount of patents on what are common sence, mainly prior art is very distastful and realy needs to be addressed before we all adapt a sue(shoot) first, ask questions later approach :(.

    For those veiwing this post in Australia were the patent may not apply, all I can say is (:.

  • ^(O.o)^

    You heard right, Cingular. I just dropped your service! I hope you enjoy that loss of profit.
  • -|


  • I am singularly unimpressed by Cingular's pathetic attempt to make cash off others' ideas and the internet's prior art will get shoved up Cingular's arse.
  • Well, I don't like patent abuse which this clearly seems to be, but I've always hated when they make a button to do smiley faces anyways. How hard is it to type :)? MSN and Yahoo have these 'emotions' to make many different faces, but it's just pointless to me. I like making my own :/.
  • by moving organic waste material from the cloaca to a water filled waste evacuation unit via a group of circularly organized muscles! now anyone who decides to take a shit on the toilet will need to get a right of use license from me. MWHAHAHAHA!

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend