The BBC and numerous other news sites report that Russian business man Oleg Teterin, whose company sells advertising on mobile phones, may have obtained trade mark protection for the emoticon ;-) from Russia's Federal Patent Agency. Mr Teterin has reportedly already announced that he will police the use of his trade mark. Interested parties may, however, be granted a licence, which would not "cost that much - tens of thousands of dollars", quotes the BBC.
While Class 46 readers might wonder about the distinctiveness of the emoticon or question whether it can denote trade origin, German news site Spiegel.de
has further information. A spokesperson for Russia's Federal Patent Agency has already clarified the matter and is quoted as saying that Mr Teterin's emoticon trade mark application would be refused. An emoticon was a generic sign and such could not be trade mark protected.
Class 46: That things might be assessed differently on the other side of the pond is illustrated by US Trade Mark registrations No's 3451001 :o) and 2412079 :-(