Samsung and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion are being sued for allegedly infringing an "emoticon input method and apparatus" patent, only a few months after Samsung tried to swipe Apple with the same patent.
The U.S. Patent Office granted a patent based on --- of all things --- a button that when pressed brings up a list of emoticons for easy input, to grant the user a slight edge over convenience.
Samsung's patent, used as a paper-based weapon against Apple, is being challenged by Varia Holdings because U.S. Patent 7167731 predates the patent that Samsung owns and is using against Apple.
But RIM and other mobile hotshots are being sued over the patent, because their devices have hardware keys specifically designed for bringing up an emoticon menu.
At least the patent is for the button, rather than the emoticon itself. Back in 2001, Despair Inc. tried to albeit jokingly trademark the unhappy-face emoticon.
Varia claims many Samsung phones infringe the patent, including the Acclaim, Captivate, Epic, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, and Transform --- while the BlackBerry Bold, Curve, Pearl and Storm are also on the list.
According to the history of the patent, it was filed in late 2005 and granted to AOL-owned startup Wildseed. Varia Mobile was spun off from AOL in 2007, along with its employees and a number of patents. Whether or not the company is a 'trolling operation', it remains unclear.
Patent trolls are those who buy up patents for unnecessarily broad items, to then sue companies that allegedly infringe them. Arguably we've seen this happen throughout 2011 between Apple and Samsung, amongst others. But ultimately all it does is stifle innovation, and prevent the creative industries from doing its job.
It's only the ordinary people that get hurt --- so Apple, Samsung, by all means --- carry on I say, with an edge of sarcasm.
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