Cingular Wireless has managed to get a patent on the concept of using emoticon on mobile phones. While the aim of the patent is to enable the displaying of MSN style graphics on handsets, they also managed to patent the delivery of text based emoticon – so presumably sending via an SMS – if selected via a dedicated or softkey, would be a breach of the patent in future.
The method and system described in the patent allows a user of a mobile phone (or other device) to 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.
The system may also support the import of emoticons and custom emoticons to one or more applications running on the mobile device. For example, in some embodiments, users may visit an out-of-band service (e.g., web page) to compose or upload custom emoticons that would then become available on the wireless device’s palette.
We can’t really add much more to the story – only to hope that they then lock the patent away in a dark box somewhere and effectively ban the use of the graphical horrors on mobile phones forever – sorry, I really don’t like them.
The patent number is US 2006/0015812 A1