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Cingular claims emoticon patent

Marc Perton

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The next time you try typing an emoticon on your cellphone, be prepared to pay Cingular a royalty. Well, probably not. But companies that develop software or hardware to display smileys (i.e., via dedicated keys or macros) may find themselves in Cingular's crosshairs now that the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted the company a patent for using a "mobile phone (or other device) to select a displayable icon, such as an emoticon, that indicates the mood or emotion of the user or conveys other information independent of text." We're not sure how Cingular pulled this one off; seems to us that there's plenty of prior art, along with earlier, similar patents -- including one granted to Microsoft for "methods and devices for creating and transferring custom emoticons to allow a user to adopt an arbitrary image as an emoticon." Just the same, we're glad we grew out of emoticons around the time we left middle school; we can't afford a lawsuit just for sharing our feelings -- though we will say this to Cingular:  :-P


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