A Russian operator of mobile advertising, Superfon, registered a smiley as its trademark. Now the company intends to charge everyone who uses its trademark in its commercial advertising. Many well-known Russian companies have already said that they are not going to pay a ruble for that. The incident marked yet another attempt to claim the rights for the smiley in Russia.
Smileys have become extremely popular all over the world for their ability to help people express their simple emotions online. Superfon registered the winking smiley – ;-) - at the Russian Patent Agency (Rospatent), the president of the mobile operator, Oleg Teterin said. Other smileys - :-), ;), :) - are considered similar to the registered winking smiley and thus should not be used in commercial purposes.
“The decision from Rospatent means that no commercial organization in Russia can use this symbol in their advertising. It does not touch upon natural persons, who use smileys on the Internet,” Teterin said.
The head of Superfon reminded that smileys were used in Russia on Nestle’s and McDonald’s street billboards. They are also used by social networks like odnoklassniki.ru (similar to classmates.com), as well as by ICQ services to provide a better communication between their users.
Superforn will be sending written complaints to those who now use the registered trademark of the Russian operator of mobile advertising. “If no reaction is going to follow then we will have to sue those companies and claim a financial compensation,” Oleg Teterin added.
Superfon’s one-year license for the use of the smileys will cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Legal expert Viktor Naumov said that Rospatent’s decision guaranteed exclusive rights for the use of the smiley to Superfon. However, he added, the registration of the smiley did not fully comply with the requirements of trademark registrations. “This set of computer keyboard characters is universally recognized. Therefore, its registration as a trademark may contradict the public interests,” the expert said.
Nikita Sherman, the president of odnoklassniki.ru was a lot more emphatic in his comments. “I doubt whether any lunatic in Russia is going to pay Superforn for the use of the smilyes,” he said.