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Despair Suing 7,000,000 Email Users Over :-(

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the patenting-the-emoticon dept.

Patents 219

Calle Ballz writes "According to an article on Despair's Website, they are suing 7,000,000 email users over trademark infringment for using the :-( 'emoticon'. I can't tell if it is a joke or not, I would like for it to be. The trademark registration is valid and is listed here. *sigh*" I would just like to say that our use of :-) is covered by fair usage. And that this is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.Update: 01/26 04:18 PM by H :Check out the press release about it - that's one of the best pieces of satire I've seen in a while. Kudos to Despair for making a mockery of trademarks. Update: 01/29 04:52 PM by CT : Apparently a bunch of retarded Slashdot readers couldn't discern that this was parody and mailed despair to complain. Little itchy on the flaming finger guys? Here's the NY Times story

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Whoa, time travel! (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#479267)

Taco posted the story at 1424, and I am reading it at 1439. But the weird thing is that Hemos's update is timestamped at 1618. How'd he do that?

How about reading the links? (1)

8Complex (10701) | more than 13 years ago | (#479268)

Quote: "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints"

It's a definite hoax, even if they were nuts enough to try they couldn't associate it with email since it isn't 'printed matter'.

Re:What's really sad (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 13 years ago | (#479269)

Uh...if you follow the link, the trademark HAS been granted. It's just that Despair has a better sense of proportion than to actually sue people for using it in daily life.

Go ahead, sue me, ya bastids!... (1)

dr_strangelove (16081) | more than 13 years ago | (#479273)


Hell, I've got a whole alternate mineshaft full of drunken, extremely bored lawyers sittin' around playin' with themselves, all 300 of whom would probably like nothing better than to sue ya blue for any trumped up reason I care to give 'em.

Really, these mugs make the MPAA's goons look like a bunch of freakin' gucci-shoed panty-waists!

So go ahead, emoticon-boy, make my day...

What's saddest... (1)

still cynical (17020) | more than 13 years ago | (#479275)

...is that a corporation somewhat grounded in reality, and with a sense of humor is rare enough to stand out and be noticeable. Dispair should start an executive exchange program.

How can anyone (1)

TheCaptain (17554) | more than 13 years ago | (#479276)

with half a brain read even half of that page and not know that it's blatant satire? Geez guys....I am REALLY starting to wonder about the editors. Do you even read the stuff before you post it and then fix it with an "UPDATE:" after you look at it? That's just poor!

This happened before in real life (1)

spatula (26874) | more than 13 years ago | (#479277)

There is some French jerk who copyrighted the smiley face several years ago. His copyright has been ignored in the US, so Wal-Mart and others continue to use smiley faces in advertising and on merchandise. But I understand that it's hard to find the ubiquitous smiley face in Europe, since he demands royalties to any European company that want to use "his" logo.

Re:Great patent referenced (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 13 years ago | (#479282)

>Check out This insane patent which is referenced
> in the press release. I almost burst a gut!

Not a cat gut, I hope. I think that method is patented.

Slashdot's slide continues... (1)

NateKid (44775) | more than 13 years ago | (#479283)

I can't believe the poster was dumb enough to fall for it and then Mr. Taco was dumb enough to post it in the "Patents" category instead of "It's funny, laugh". Lately slashdot has been so eager to provide us with the "Late Breaking News" that gets enough banner-ad clickthroughs to somehow save VA from bankruptcy, that they'll post un{spell,grammar}checked stuff constantly and often - as in this case - not even read what they're posting links to. Praise to the American educational system, which has majors in SciFi, classes on Madonna, and graduates like Cmdr. Taco.

Even funnier (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#479284)

As stated at the article, someone patened "US5443036: Method of exercising a cat [delphion.com] "

"A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct."

Hmm... how the hell did someone get that patent??

Re:Let them sue me (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#479286)

first off, your PS wont get you sued, they own the trademark on
and anyway, if you read the article , its a joke. Yes they do own the trademark, but they arent suing people. And even if they decided to they cant, they own the trademark so companies cant put :-( in their logo and print it on stuff, but not using :-( in emails or any other text.

Re:A little whine with my cheese... (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#479287)

First off, you should have titled it ":-( Emoticon Trademarked By Dispair.com", they like when every word is capitalized. Next, did you mention how it would effect linux? Something like "Imagine the lawsuits with all the coders who have :-( in their comments", would work sufficiently.

That's how I've gotten my stories posted. :)

Whats sadder (is that a word?)... (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#479289)

They do own the patent (see http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&e ntry=75502288) ... but they arent suing over it... not yet anyway :)


Let's see if they sue slashdot over the above :)

let us read the rest of the page... (1)

Antilles (49894) | more than 13 years ago | (#479290)

I think an overzealous reader may have read a paragraph or 2 on that page, because if you scroll down, it is obviously a parody side in the same vain as "The Onion" and the like.

OK! That DOES IT! I'm gonna patent the... (1)

tedbronson (51584) | more than 13 years ago | (#479291)


So, EVERYONE will have to pay me $0.01USD per 100 letters EVER USED out of the Alphabet. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is represented by these characters:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCEDFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV WX YZ

Furthermore, I claim the patent for the numbers 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 and any combination that can be produced by concatenation of any of those digits.

That means when you write source code or HTML or XML or anything like that, YOU HAVE TO PAY ME!!


A little whine with my cheese... (1)

Yax-Pac (62585) | more than 13 years ago | (#479295)

Not to be TOO big a whiner, but I posted this story YESTERDAY... And it was rejected. What gives?

2001-01-25 19:52:59 :-( emoticon trademarked by despair.com (articles,news) (rejected)

:-( is a SMILEY, dammit! (1)

Refried Beans (70083) | more than 13 years ago | (#479299)

I am sick and tired of people calling smileys 'emoticons'. Emoticon is just so M$ish. Every time I hear the word I cringe. This irks me more than the hacker/cracker mix-up. Anyone who started on BBSes will tell you they are smileys. Please tell your friends to get their vocab straight.

Go Team Despair...or not...whatever (1)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 13 years ago | (#479308)

First off, I'd like to submit this link to The Onion, and their article "Microsoft Patents Zeros and Ones" [theonion.com]

Any following posts refering to this article may consider themselves redundant. Now, on to business!

Huzzah and kudos, as well as mad props to Despair, Inc. for being one of the few companies with a sense of humor in these dark times of the MPAA, carnivore, :CueCat, the DMCA, the PTA, NASCAR, lawyers, Natalie Portman naked and petrified, Lego Mindstorm, TiVO, and any other obligitory slashdot references I might have missed. But damn, Imagine A Beowulf Cluster of These :-( Things! They Are More Than Welcome To Join My SETI@Home or distributed.net Team!

The Onion may be the premier parody newspaper, but Despair, Inc is a corperation...they're not supposed to rip on people like Microsoft, Apple, and Fry's Electronics. That wouldn't be Politically Correct of them!

Anyway, I have to go re-hang my Pessimism poster [despair.com] ...the blue stuff that was holding it to the wall dried out and it fell. I didn't think the damn thing would stay up, anyway.

This is Matt signing off, and hoping the rest of your day doesn't suck.

Re:Go Team Despair...or not...whatever (1)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 13 years ago | (#479309)

Damn it all...I would have had that Onion article reference first if it weren't for an "invalid form key" error attached to the "submit" button...that's for nothing, slashdot!

You've got to be kidding. (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 13 years ago | (#479313)

I sure hope someone from the USPTO is reading this article and realizing how stupid they are.

Then again, if they actually read what people put in front of them (instead of blindly rubber stamping everything), most of these patents wouldn't be passed in the first place.

Re:my feelings on the matter... (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 13 years ago | (#479315)

Let us know when you get your cease and desist order :-)

Re:What's truly amazing... (1)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 13 years ago | (#479319)

I don't like to post just to complain about moderation, but jesus h., +3:Informative on a post that confuses patents and trademarks?!?

Re:If it weren't satire... (1)

CaseStudy (119864) | more than 13 years ago | (#479327)

It's not a patent, it's a trademark.

It's perfectly valid for a word to be in use as a generic term before it becomes a trademark. What's invalid is to use the generic term for your product as a trademark for it.

Hrm... (1)

ahknight (128958) | more than 13 years ago | (#479332)

This is quite honestly one of the greatest things I've heard lately. A company that's actualy standing up and saying that even though they own it they don't want to take it out of popular culture. Beautiful. =)

Re:What's truly amazing... (1)

ahknight (128958) | more than 13 years ago | (#479333)

1) It's not a patent, it's a trademark.
2) It's not broken, it's their logo. It prevents other companies from using it as their logo. Fair use still applies, just like copyright.

Re::-( is a SMILEY, dammit! (1)

nycdewd (160297) | more than 13 years ago | (#479339)

() (**) (ss) (oo) ok ok ok, so it's SMILEY and not emoticon, ok... but what were them there thingies? hey, i'm just askin'

Neat (1)

Nidhogg (161640) | more than 13 years ago | (#479341)

  1. Despair has also petitioned the court to require defendants to submit a handwritten letter which repeats the phrase ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." one-thousand times.

Pfft. Like I've seen a pen and paper lately. How 80's is that?

Oh and :-(

how about this one? (1)

anticlus (173042) | more than 13 years ago | (#479345)

i think that I will get this as my trademark and change my name to it--->

( . Y . )

Re:The problem.. (1)

urbanjunkie (173409) | more than 13 years ago | (#479346)

Actually, open source is just about the best protection there is against patenting something - it then becomes prior art.

From the US Patent Office website [uspto.gov]

In order for an invention to be patentable it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if: "(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent," or "(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country more than one year prior to the application for patent in the United States . .

Please TACO..take time to read before posting... (1)

cOdEgUru (181536) | more than 13 years ago | (#479350)

Atleast read the damn article before you post it on Slashdot. We may not have all the time to waste like you. Enough said..

Oh god help us all.. (1)

Dest (207166) | more than 13 years ago | (#479357)

If anyone fell for that they are a moron. The picture is defintely doctored. The whole press release has that "fake" feel to it. Shame on you Rob.

I'll show them... (1)

djocyko (214429) | more than 13 years ago | (#479360)

I'm in the process of filing the trademark for the usage of )-: and the other 358 possible rotations of said emoticon.

My only problem is that if someone holds the gift card upsidedown, it would look like :-( and I would be in a shit load of trouble...hrm...

oh my god..... (1)

BananaBoht (221296) | more than 13 years ago | (#479364)

Anyone who believes this might as well believe everything off of theonion.com. So lets take some actual news articles from theonion.com to chew on:

White House Guidance Counselor Recommends Clinton Consider Career In Hotel Management (Is this believeable?)

Bunch Of People Apparently Saw That Brendan Fraser Mummy Movie (Is this one believeable?)

Despair.com is in the business of making people feel like shit for a purpose. To make us laugh at dumb stuff like this. You think they can trademark a few keys on a keyboard. That would be as dumb as 1-click shopping or trademarking search engine technology. Oops! It's already been done.

That picture of E. L. Kerstein is tweaked. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#479365)

The podium sign with the :-( is a fake. Take a close look and you'll see what I mean; though the camera angle is straight-on, but the highlight is non-directional. Also, the stippling of the background is suspiciously aligned with the pixel grid of the .gif file. Care was obviously taken to hide this, but it just stuck out to me. Ever seen a real-life stippling pattern that just "happens" to align with the pixel grid? I didn't think so.

more of this (1)

Conrad_Bombora (225559) | more than 13 years ago | (#479366)

this is a great thing to do. if enough people file frivols lawsuits for all concepts or things considered free, like.... navigational buttons on a web site ... using colored fonts in a email... you get the picture...
maybe congress will wake up and take a look at the outdated patent laws.

Re:What's up with Slashdot and Slashcode? (1)

dspisak (257340) | more than 13 years ago | (#479376)

Yeah that was one of the errors I saw. They had another error on line 997 in one of their other .pm files but I forget what it was called now, its the one that powered the right-hand side column boxes I think.

What's up with Slashdot and Slashcode? (1)

dspisak (257340) | more than 13 years ago | (#479377)

I've been getting funky slash.pm and Internal Server 500 errors on slashdot today, you guys trying to upgrade Slashcode or something?

Re:Valid Use of Carnivore (1)

tomcode (261182) | more than 13 years ago | (#479380)

"An innovative stand against innovation." I love it! :-) ...I mean :-( I'm gonna hafta buy one of those "I read your email" bumper stickers now. Elsewhere on the site, they mention Parker Brothers' theft of the game Monopoly. If you want to read about a real real evil use of trademark laws, go to www.antimonopoly.com

Re:What's up with Slashdot and Slashcode? (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#479381)

I've been getting funky slash.pm and Internal Server 500 errors on slashdot today, you guys trying to upgrade Slashcode or something?

They've got an error on line 995 of Slash.pm.

Dancin Santa

Re:Note, this is a protected Mark (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#479386)

There is a real Trademark, and it is quite reasonable.

I think the issue is that Trademarks are not supposed to be granted for commonly used english phrases (and ostensibly, commonly used symbols.) This case shows that either the Trademark office was asleep at the switch, or they clearly don't go online very much. Either one is sort of disturbing.

Happy Brithday (1)

Champaign (307086) | more than 13 years ago | (#479393)

The thing to keep in mind with this sort of this, is there's a difference between necessarily owning the copyright/trademark/patent on something and enforcing. Michael Jackson owns the rights to "Happy Birthday", do you think he could sue any 8-year olds birthday party? What about a movie it was sung in? of course not...

Re:Whats sadder (is that a word?)... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#479416)

They own a trademark, not a patent. Trademarks are limited to one field of use, so we have Apple Computer and Apple Records, Sun Microsystems and Sun Oil Company. What the trademark means is that no other company can use :-( as their corporate logo, and that's all. This is completely legitimate.

The reason that we are now having such trouble over trademarks is that trademark owners are trying to leverage their limited control over the use of a word (in a specific business) to an unlimited control (use in unrelated fields, like domain names of businesses in a completely different line of work). The ICANN is headed for a legal fall Real Soon Now because of this (their attempt to expand trademark law even though they have no right to do so).

If it weren't satire... (2)

coats (1068) | more than 13 years ago | (#479417)

IANAL, but if the article weren't satire (or probably even though it is), the trademark is quite vulnerable to challenge. Recall that Bayer lost the trademark over "aspirin" because the term had become one used generically by a large portion of the public, rather than as a trade name for a specific product.

In this case, the generic use of emoticons greatly predates the trademark (allegedly applied for in 1998): According to ESR's _The New Hacker Dictionary_, 2nd Ed (1993),

...used to indicate an emotional state in email or news... are virtually required under certain circumstances in high-volume text-only communications forums...

...are in common use. These include...


It appears that the emoticon was invented by one Scott Fahlman on the CMU bboard systems around 1980...

So: invalid, indefensible trademark-- already in use as a generic even before the trademark application.

Actually, hemos, it shows what's right... (2)

Badger (1280) | more than 13 years ago | (#479418)

As much as I enjoy the humor involved, it does show what's right with trademark registration. Notice that they have a fairly narrow mandate for using their trademark -- "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints." So, no one else can use :-( to sell posters. Patents may have their problems, but trademarks have been fairly limited, especially since the Apple (Records/Compter) lawsuit.

Re:I great piece of satire.... (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 13 years ago | (#479420)

or a cynical attempt to increase their audience greatly?

[shrug] Maybe not "or" but "and". So?

(Was this an insightful comment by me, or a cynical attempt to get moderated up?)

Re:"Never underestimate the power... (2)

grappler (14976) | more than 13 years ago | (#479421)

or the power of large people in stupid groups :-(


how the hell could a person not tell? (2)

grappler (14976) | more than 13 years ago | (#479422)

could that person really not tell this was a joke?

that's sad, as in :, -, (,

Re:What's really sad (2)

sohp (22984) | more than 13 years ago | (#479423)

Some of my co-workers seem to suffer from a lack of the intelligence needed to realize this is satire.

Regarding the cat/laser patent... (2)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 13 years ago | (#479431)

I'm not sure if it has ever been noticed before in earlier postings about this patent on /. - but did you notice the line in the patent that reads:

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser...

Invisible light? Is this the innovation in the patent?

Note that most typical laser pointers project visible light, generally 635 or 670nm, which is a bright red. For a laser pointer to generate invisible light, it would have to be a UV or IR laser.

Does anyone know where I could get a UV or IR laser, in a sleek pen form factor?

Ok, I am being sarcastic (these types of lasers tend to be on the large side of things) - but I have to wonder about the wording of this patent. It really seems absurd...

Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!

Re:Go Team Despair...or not...whatever (2)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 13 years ago | (#479432)

>The Onion may be the premier parody newspaper,
>but Despair, Inc is a corperation...they're not
>supposed to rip on people like Microsoft, Apple,
>and Fry's Electronics. That wouldn't be
>Politically Correct of them!

We should all give a tip o' the hat to despair.com: they put "Windows 95 officially debuts (1995)" on their 1999 calendar August 24 entry.

For those who don't know, despair.com calendars have a variety of tidbits put in some of the days of each month, chronicling something bad that happened that day in history.

Re:Funniest thing Taco has seen in a while... (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 13 years ago | (#479437)

Hey, thanks! Now I can stop feeling irate about my submission of this story getting rejected three days ago... You're the deserving one, not I. Though perhaps it was my including of that actual trademark page that confused them. Too much information to check out.

(Though that's not the record...I submitted the "sugar eating Robot" thing last September, but those in charge didn't find an acceptable version until January.)

"I can't use :-( anymore" is WRONG. (2)

Speare (84249) | more than 13 years ago | (#479442)

There is a real Trademark, and it is quite reasonable. You can not use the frowny emoticon as representing your trade in business cards and artwork. ... I can't create a printing house and use the frowning logo.

That is not how Intellectual Property law works. You can use the trademark all you want. You can paint it on your house, you can sell posters on it. A registered trademark just means that the holder can sue you for it, and collect damages.

In this case, while they HAVE acquired :-( as a registered trademark, they are NOT using Carnivore to find infringers, they are NOT likely to care about your use of :-( at all. If ever, they'd only care about an egregious use of :-( as an identity mark to divert or confuse THEIR customers.

Valid Use of Carnivore (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#479443)

I like the bit about how they're using Carnivore to catch infringing users.

Re:Happy Brithday (2)

e4 (102617) | more than 13 years ago | (#479444)

From http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/~howard/Papers/copyright 99.html [ucla.edu] :

In 1996 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) told the Girl Scouts of the USA that scout camps must start paying a licensing fee to sing any of the 4 million copyrighted songs that ASCAP controlled (Walker and Fagan). This included girl scout staples such as "Happy Birthday". Many camps went songless for months, until newspaper and talk show attention generated enough outrage that ASCAP was forced to say that they had no intention of prosecuting girl scout camps for violations of singing songs around the campfire. But in backing down, ASCAP still insisted that they still might prosecute camps for playing background music without a license. Though most citizens would bristle at ASCAP's attempts to charge the girl scouts, as a copyright holder the law is on their side, and the girl scouts' only defense would be fair use (but only as long as fair use remains a defense).

Note, this is a protected Mark (2)

alexhmit01 (104757) | more than 13 years ago | (#479445)

There is a real Trademark, and it is quite reasonable. You can not use the frowny emoticon as representing your trade in business cards and artwork. It is questionable if you can use it as an image in a poster, but I would imagine that prior art covers it.

However, they have that logo. I can't create a printing house and use the frowning logo.

I like there logo, and I thought the page was hysterical.

Think before you post stories (2)

CaseStudy (119864) | more than 13 years ago | (#479447)

An obvious hoax. C'mon, why do you think they call it a TRADEmark? You can't take a generally used word or symbol out of the public domain; you can only enjoin a specific and limited use. I can use the words hallmark and paramount, for example, even capitalizing them if I choose, and if it doesn't give a false impression to consumers I can't be successfully sued. Additionally, you generally can't have classes of unrelated defendants in a suit. That should have tipped you off. Even if you didn't know law, wouldn't you wonder how they got a list of millions of e-mail users who used the emoticon? Did they lease Carnivore? A little cogitation goes a long way, guys.

Re:The next thing you know ... (2)

CaseStudy (119864) | more than 13 years ago | (#479448)

"In order to be inherently distinctive, the trade dress must be either arbitrary or suggestive..."

But to be a valid trademark, the mark need not be inherently distinctive. Rather, it can acquire distinctiveness through use. This is why Coca-Cola can be a trademark despite being merely descriptive of the ingredients of the drink.

a little bit of truth goes a long way... (2)

aozilla (133143) | more than 13 years ago | (#479449)

"Despair has also petitioned the court to require defendants to submit a handwritten letter which repeats the phrase ":-( is a registered trademark of Despair, Inc." one-thousand times. A ruling on the petition is expected within a week."

The trademark is real. It is probably even enforable on "Printed matter namely, greeting cards, posters and art prints", and for commercial purposes... The rest of the article is fake.

Funniest thing Taco has seen in a while... (2)

Landaras (159892) | more than 13 years ago | (#479451)

Then why did he reject the exact same story when I submitted it a week ago?

This hypocrisy bothers me. It would be one thing if he changed his mind and decided to post it, but to put it on the front page...

Re:What's really sad (2)

rawburt (169116) | more than 13 years ago | (#479452)

With the current state of the US legal system nothing would surprise me. Why would suing 7 million e-mail users be more unbelievable than some of the utterly stupid lawsuits we have come to see as natural in the last few years?

Re:Happy Brithday (2)

Fat Rat Bastard (170520) | more than 13 years ago | (#479453)

do you think he could sue any 8-year olds birthday party?

Of course not. It's not a public performance.

What about a movie it was sung in?

MOST CERTAINLY. In fact, that's why that song is made up because at the time they were filming they didn't have the rights to use "Happy Birthday" in video, only the version released to so valuable (in terms of publishing rights). When they filmed the movie "Big" the crew had to film the birthday scene twice, once with "Happy Birthday" and once with some crappy song they had theatres.

Beautiful!!! (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#479454)

You gotta love that Despair, Inc.

First, the form a company around the idea of making really depressing versions of those inspirational new-agey posters...

Then they advertize on Slashdot, the most popular geek website, and turn the Slash editors into shameless publicity whores for their company!

Next, I'm sure they will hire Jon Katz to write a book about Despair, hailing them as representative of a wave of "New Media" or "Open Poster-Making" or maybe even "Post-Columbine Virtual Community Chickclickers" or something.

Way to go, Despair! Keep fighting the bad fight.

Hits (2)

SlashGeek (192010) | more than 13 years ago | (#479456)

Well, at least they got 30,000+ hits from /. readers.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

What's truly amazing... (2)

elefantstn (195873) | more than 13 years ago | (#479457)

...is that they apparently have an actual patent on the :-(. Go to their page, they have a link to the uspto.org patent server, and they have registered it. So much for those who think the patent system isn't broken.

:-( Symbol (2)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 13 years ago | (#479460)

Fine we can just quit using :-(

There are many other wonderful ways to express sadness such as :(

I think I should trademark :P....

Prior art - or how I learned to love DOS attacks (2)

WillSeattle (239206) | more than 13 years ago | (#479462)

Well, I guess I'll have to sue despair.com then, cause I used that emoticon back in 1979 in a copyrighted work that was transmitted over the Internet, when I was a student at SFU in Burnaby, B.C.

Luckily for me I registered it with both the Library of Congress and the Canadian version thereof (even have the reg papers in a box in the attic).

Interesting aside - maybe I should read through my published articles and journals and see if I have any more prior art I can use to deny MSFT and other baddies their key patents, since I have prior claim due to usage?

What really sucks is... (3)

DzugZug (52149) | more than 13 years ago | (#479467)

... rather than read the whole page I went to lexis-nexis to see if despair had in fact filed any suits in U.S. District court. They hadn't.

hmmm is :( diluting their trademark? (3)

toast0 (63707) | more than 13 years ago | (#479468)

better watch out, or they'll sue you for that too!

i smell a segfault article on this.....

Re:Come on, critical thinking, people. (3)

donutello (88309) | more than 13 years ago | (#479471)

Damn, and here I was getting ready to put the frowny on T-shirts and use the T-shirts as free speech argument to defend myself in court!

Re:What's really sad (3)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 13 years ago | (#479472)

The trademark *is* real. The lawsuit is not. I could tell that much from reading the bit on the front page of /. The key to the whole joke is that the trademark is real and while they don't work at Despair there are people [cmgi.com] out there who if they had thought of it would do the lawsuit. In fact I would not be surprised to see a similar but real thing in the near future.

Re::-( Symbol (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#479473)

They can kiss my (_!_)

The next thing you know ... (4)

Jim Tyre (100017) | more than 13 years ago | (#479474)

... someone will try to trademark an expression as banal as "Good Dog!"

Oh, someone [puppyfarm.com] did.

But I think it's another joke.

"In order to be inherently distinctive, the trade dress must be either arbitrary or suggestive..."

(Cmdr)Taco Cabana Int'l, Inc. v. Two Pesos, Inc.
932 F.2d 1113 (5th Cir. 1991)

All trolls, please send your check to . . . (4)

Goronguer (223202) | more than 13 years ago | (#479475)

I have just registered the trademark "Anonymous Coward." All who wish to post to Slashdot using that name should send US$1 to me for each use. Pay pal accepted.

"Never underestimate the power... (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#479476)

of stupid people in large groups."

Some people don't seem to get this is a joke. According to today's SJ Mercury, some people have been writing hate mail to Despair about it.

Here's the link (see bottom of page)


:-( to be henceforth known as 'the "Work'" redux: Those of you unsettled by an item in Thursday's column discussing Despair.com's alleged trademarking of the :-( emoticon, take note: the article was satirical, as was my discussion of it. There's no need to lambaste Despair.com and its CEO Justin Sewell.

[An email from Despair follows]


Thanks for your recent mention of our :-( trademark story in your "Good Morning Silicon Valley" column.

It is somewhat unclear to me from reading your recent write-up whether or not you were aware that the article regarding the frown emoticon was a parody story. If you were aware of this, please forgive me for this email.

Your article does state that we are satirists -- but afterwards seems to treat the matter of the lawsuit as though it were not a satirical gag. This seems to have created some confusion amongst the readership of your column, some of whom have contacted us in outrage asking passionately for their names to be added to the list of those we intend to sue. Heroic gestures, to be sure, but ultimately as futile as grabbing the family shotgun to fend off a Martian invasion being reported by Orson Wells.

Best regards,
Justin Sewell, CEO
Despair, Inc.

sad, really (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#479477)

An acquaintance of mine ran an (unsuccessful) t-shirt business a few years ago. one of his lines were Ts with the emoticons printed on them.

He registered for and recieved copyright on all the emoticons.

I sent him a copy of the story, but the sarcasm must have whizzed over his head. He sent this cease and decist letter to despair:

To Whom it may concern,

Be aware that the :-( symbol has been copywrited previous to your use as a trademark. The use of this symbol as graphic art (ie. T-shirts, posters, mugs, etc.) will be considered copywrite infringement. Please contact me if you wish to use this symbol in any context. If this symbol is being used in this context current you are to cease and desist.

Thank You,
[name omitted purposely to protect the guilty]

Pathetic, isn't it?

Re:Actually, hemos, it shows what's right... (5)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 13 years ago | (#479478)

Trademarks are in general a good thing, they at some level protect us the consumers. Or at least they are suposed to. When you see a red can with "Coca-Cola" written on it you know that it really is "Coca-Cola" and not something else. No one but the Coca-Cola company has a right to sell a can of stuff called "Coca-Cola". You can sell "MyCola" all you want and even put it in a red can.

Similarly many things like endorcements that you see on products (Such as the Circle-U on foods or the ADA label on toothpaste) Can only work due to trademarks.

Now I will admit in some cases the Enforcement of trademarks has gone to far.

Re:What's really sad (5)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 13 years ago | (#479479)

No intelligent people ever believed that the trademark holder was going to sue 7,000,000 email users. Only people with a mental deficiency (the inability to recognize even the most blatantly obvious heavy-handed satire as such unless they literally read the words "this is satire") are fooled by such things.

Unfortunately several of the Slashdot editors suffer from said mental deficiency, as do way too many Slashdot readers.

slashdot trademarked /. (and other observations) (5)

smirkleton (69652) | more than 13 years ago | (#479480)

See for your selves. [uspto.gov]

On a separate note...

I am AMAZED at how many idiots there are that don't seem to be able to realize that this story is MAKING FUN OF FRIVILOUS LAWSUITS by PRETENDING TO BE ONE.

I have to revise my opinion of the average intelligence of the readership of slashdot WAAAAAY down.

Ask yourself, outraged nimrods, if you really believe the following things are TRUE.

1) A company that sells PARODY products is actually working with the FBI to MONITOR YOUR EMAIL.
2) The PARODY company in question is SERIOUSLY planning to sue 7,000,000 people.
3) The founder of that company is SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING changing his name to :-(
4) The SAME person also is suing JEFF BEZOS for infringing on a trademark.
5) The DISCLAIMER at the bottom of the story is actually NOT TRUE.

Did you read any of the OTHER STORIES [despair.com] on the website?

Do you REALLY believe they are partnering with Yahoo [despair.com] to create BOOHOO.COM- a portal for miserable people?
Do you REALLY believe Noah Wylie is the interim CEO of FUTURE POWER [despair.com]

The only story on their entire site that I might ACTUALLY believe is the one about selling 5000 Apathy posters to Fry's [despair.com] . That I believe.

Come on, critical thinking, people. (5)

Speare (84249) | more than 13 years ago | (#479481)

From the writeup, "I can't tell if this is a joke or not."

From the page itself, Articles and items appearing in our "Recent Spin" are satirical and are not intended to be an accurate portrayal of the persons, companies or events depicted within them.

This is SATIRE. Put on your thinking caps, people, or geez, read the whole thing! The CEO also claims he's considering changing his legal name to the frowney emoticon. Yeah right.

What's really sad (5)

aggressivepedestrian (149887) | more than 13 years ago | (#479482)

Yeah, it's funny, until you realize that the current state of intellectual property law is so egregious that intelligent people might actually believe a trademark would be granted for the emoticon, and that the trademark holder might actually sue 7,000,000 email users.
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