Just a few days ago, there was speculation that South Korean electronics conglomerate Samsung and flailing BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) might be on the verge of hooking up.
Well, those two are now bedfellows in a patent court of law. A small company called Varia Holdings has sued both Sammy and RIM and is alleging that the pair has infringed on one of its patents. The patent in question relates to ... insert drum roll here ... emoticons!
And you thought our patent system was broken. ;-)
This patent was granted back in 2007 to a small start-up company called Wildseed that was acquired by AOL (NYSE: AOL ) back in 2005, just before it filed for this crucial intellectual property. AOL subsequently spun off a new entity called Varia Mobile, which included a handful of old Wildseed employees in addition to this valuable patent. Presumably, Varia Holdings is the patent-troll arm of Varia Mobile.
Here's part of the patent's abstract:
An apparatus, such as a communication device, is provided with emoticon input logic associated with an input key to improve the ease-of-use of the apparatus for entering emoticons, e.g. into a text message, while the apparatus is operating e.g. in a text mode. Responsive to a selection of the associated input key, one or more emoticons are displayed for selection. A user may "scroll" through the one or more displayed emoticons to "select" an emoticon.
Source: United States Patent & Trademark Office. Patent No. 7,167,731.
The gist of the patent is that instead of having to painstakingly type out each and every ":" and "(" to express one's displeasure like we're still in a technological stone age, the device will help you input your feelings through some type of menu or prompt. Talk about convenience! 8-)
Before you judge Varia, keep in mind that Samsung threw a similar suit at Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) just months ago in a German court over a similar patent. :-o
This ever-escalating patent warfare is getting worse before it gets better. :'-(
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