4:00 PM -- It might be time to turn that smile around if Cingular gets its way: the U.S. mobile operator wants to patent that staple of online communication -- the emoticon.
In its January 19 application to the U.S. Patent Office, the carrier claims bragging rights on:
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 collection of emoticons that the user may then select from using, for example, a key mapping or navigation technique.
I could see some very interesting lawsuits coming down the pipe if this one gets granted. I'm no patent lawyer -- I don't even play one on TV -- but it seems as if this would be difficult to enforce in the real world.
Still, stranger things have happened... IMHO.
— Dan :O} Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung