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Apple gets sued over animoji trademark

A Japanese company says it claimed rights to animated emoji before Apple did.

A Japanese company claims it thought of the Animoji before Apple did.
GIF by Alexandra Able/CNET

Apple's animojis were a key part of the company's iPhone X announcement last month -- and are also key to a trademark lawsuit filed against the company this week.

Japanese company Emonster filed a suit claiming it had already invented the term "animoji" back in 2014 and registered it with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2015, The Recorder first reported Thursday. Emonster owner Enrique Bonansea said in the complaint (PDF) that he was already using the name to market an iOS app that featured moving emojis.

"This is a textbook case of willful, deliberate trademark infringement. With full awareness of plaintiffs' animoji mark, Apple decided to take the name and pretend to the world that 'animoji' was original to Apple," the complaint says.

The complaint further alleges that Apple was fully aware of Emonster's trademark, saying that Apple offered to purchase the rights to the name. While that offer was rejected by Bonansea's company, Apple used it anyway and made an attempt to cancel the trademark over a technicality about the company's naming, the complaint alleges. 

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Emonster's animoji app is available in Apple's iOS store for 99 cents in the US. While it does contain animated emoji symbols, it differs from the iPhone X implementation that allows people to control the animation using their face. The complaint claims that the Animoji app has been in Apple's store since 2014.

Emonster is demanding Apple cease and desist from using the term and awards for "ascertainable damages, costs and attorney fees, including punitive damages."

Apple declined to comment on the lawsuit.