Samsung and RIM sued for infringing lol-worthy emoticon patent

smiling faceIn an apparent quest to make the patent system look even more ridiculous, a firm on Thursday sued Samsung and Research in Motion for allegedly infringing a patent titled "emoticon input method and apparatus."

In an apparent quest to make the patent system look even more ridiculous, a firm on Thursday sued Samsung and Research in Motion for allegedly infringing a patent titled "emoticon input method and apparatus."

"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.

Varia claims that a long list of Samsung phones, including the Acclaim, Nexus S, Captivate, Epic, Galaxy Nexus, and Transform, infringe the patent by allowing users to select emoticons from a pop-up menu. Blackberry phones alleged to infringe the patent include the Bold, Curve, Pearl, and Storm.

Samsung and RIM sued for infringing lol-worthy emoticon patent

The patent was filed in late 2005 and granted in early 2007 to Wildseed, a Seattle-area startup firm acquired by AOL. A new firm called Varia Mobile was then spun off from AOL. It took several former Wildseed employees and its emoticon patent with it. Varia Mobile didn't respond to our inquiries about the exact relationship between Varia Mobile and Varia Holdings, but it's a safe bet they're connected. Interestingly, Varia Mobile is advertising open engineering positions, suggesting they don't fit the conventional definition of a patent troll.

The courts have struggled in recent years to define which "inventions" are eligible for patent protection. Last year, an appeals court ruled that a patent on the concept of detecting credit card fraud by examining past transactions associated with a particular IP address was too abstract to merit patent protection. And in 2010, the Supreme Court invalidated a patent on the concept of hedging against commodity price risk. But in neither case did the courts offer clear guidance on which technologies were eligible for patent protection. So while Varia's patent might seem absurd, trying to invalidate it could prove to be an extremely costly roll of the dice for Samsung and RIM.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: legal action, mobile phones, RIM, Samsung

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