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Electronic Winks No Longer Free In Russia

  • December 22nd, 2008
  • Posted by Amelia Birnie

wink.jpgA Russian businessman has trademarked the wink emoticon – or combination of punctuation marks – used in text messages and email.

President of Superfone Oleg Teterin said he doesn’t plan on tracking down individual users following the decision by the federal patent agency.

“I want to highlight that this is only directed at corporations, companies that are trying to make a profit without the permission of the trademark holder,” he said in comments to the Russian National TV network (RNTW).

Companies will be sent legal warnings if they use the symbol without his permission, he said.

“Legal use will be possible after buying an annual licence from us,” he was quoted by Kommersant as saying. “It won’t cost that much – tens of thousands of dollars.”

He also said since other similar emoticons – :-) or ;) or :) – resemble the one he has trademarked, use of those symbols could also fall under his ownership.


Competitor Russian Internet entrepreneurs reacted to the effort predictably – :-/

“Imagine the next wise-guy who trademarks the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet and then says anyone who uses the Russian alphabet has to send him money;it’s absurd,” Alexander Manis, the director of a broadband internet and mobile company, told RNTV.

Scott Fahlman, a professor at the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, claims that he was the first to use three keystrokes – a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis – as a horizontal “smiley face” in a computer message 25 years ago.


Russian National Television Network, St Petersburg, 10.12.08, “Wink Emoticon Trademarked” – translated interview.

Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 12.12.08, “Russian trademarks winking emoticon”., (12.12.08).