Cingular Wireless has certainly made no friends today, as news of its emoticon patent application began circulating on the Internet.
The application, which is rather lengthy, describes a static set-up that would allow users with any device (television, computer, mobile device, etc.) to choose from a dedicated window of emoticons, without typing in the ASCII symbols that generate visual emoticons.
From the Cingular application:
The method and system described herein allow a user of a mobile station or other device to easily select a displayable icon, such as an emoticon, that indicates the mood or emotion of the user or conveys other information independent of text. In some embodiments, the selected displayable icon is inserted into a text message or screen, such as an instant message, chat screen, or user text field.
Microsoft faced an equally vicious onslaught when it filed a similar application. The main objection, then as it likely will be now, is that since emoticons represent speech online, no company should be able to patent that language.
(Thank you, friends of Fark.com, for the heads-up.)