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RIM and Samsung sued over Smiley patent

A company called Varia Holdings has filed a lawsuit against Research In Motion and Samsung for allegedly infringing one of its patents by smartphone makers. It protects a method of creating a shortcut menu for emoticons on mobile devices, as noted by news site Ars Technica.

Patent illustration (screenshot: ZDNet).

Several manufacturers' devices are affected by the lawsuit, including Samsung's Acclaim, Nexus S, Captivate, Epic, Galaxy Nexus and Transform. RIM's Blackberry models Bold, Curve, Pearl and Storm are also said to infringe the patent.

Varia Holdings claims it has the idea for pop-up emoticon menus that make it easy for users to insert smileys so they don't have to type all of the characters. "It is known that many users' e-mails and instant messaging messages often contain emoticons, such as a 'smiling face' or a 'sad face'," states US Pat. No. 7167731. "Yet few offer E -Mail or IM applications help to make it easier for the user to enter and use emoticons. "

The patent in question was filed in 2005 by a start-up called Wildseed and approved in 2007. AOL bought Wildseed, according to Ars Technica. Later, a company called Varia Mobile was spun off from AOL - and the property right probably ended up in the hands of Varia Holdings.

Emoticon menu (Screenshot: ZDNet)

Samsung tried to enforce similar claims against Apple in mid-December. The iPhone manufacturer is said to violate a European patent for entering emoticons owned by Samsung with the smartphone's user interface. According to their own statements, the Koreans have had the rights to this "method for entering emoticons for mobile devices" for almost ten years. It includes, for example, the use of a “mode for entering emoticons” and the display of saved emoticons. The patent covers various combinations of characters, for example ^. ^ And (^_^) for "smile".

[with material from Dara Kerr,]