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Wal-Mart Tries To Patent The Smiley

Doug Caverly
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-12

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Many prognosticators have foreseen a great war--a battle for world domination. These soothsayers have named Wal-Mart, Google, and Starbucks as the most powerful of the behemoths that will be involved. And in a move that is not likely to ensure victory, or even confer an advantage, Wal-Mart is staking out a powerful claim by attempting to patent the humble smiley.

That's right. Want to show someone on AIM that you're grinning? You may have to write out "I'm smiling" instead of making a simple :). And you'd better scour your childrens' sticker books, lest little Timmy incur the wrath of the retail giant by placing the wrong decal on his toybox.

No, this isn't a joke. Wal-Mart is locked in a patent battle over the rights to Mr. Smiley. The corporation says that they would have allowed it to remain in the public domain, except that a London-based company known as SmileyWorld threatened to register the image. That's according to Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, whose last name is suspiciously close to the cartoon in question.

I promise, this is real. A decision is expected from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August. Not that I really want any particular entity to own rights to the smiley, but given the choices here, I'm kind of rooting for SmileyWorld. They own the rights to the logo in more than 80 countries already, and there hasn't been so much as a peep of trouble about them. Wal-Mart, on the other hand . . . .

So choose your sides and place your bets, folks. On the subject of world domination: Wal-Mart, Google, or Starbucks? If Wal-Mart wins, we might at least get a bunch of cheerful yellow smileys to look at.

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About the Author:
Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

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