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RIM, Samsung accused of emoticon patent infringement

Varia Holdings is suing the two mobile phone makers for using a protected patent that lets users quickly use emoticons from pop-up menus.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
Screenshot from ZDNet

The latest in the everyone-sue-everyone patent war is an alleged infringement by Samsung and Research In Motion for installing emoticon shortcut menus on their mobile phones, according to tech news site Ars Technica.

A firm called Varia Holdings began the process of suing both cell phone makers on Thursday for using its "emoticon input method and apparatus" patent, reports Ars Technica. The company asserts that it owns the idea of pop-up emoticon menus, which let users easily insert a happy or frowny face without having to type out the characters one at a time.

"It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications...often involve the use of emoticons, such as the 'smiling face' or the 'sad face,'" the patent says. "However, few email or instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications."

Jonathan O. Nelson invented the emoticon menu in question; the patent was filed in 2005 and granted in 2007 to a startup called Wildseed that was acquired by AOL, according to Ars Technica. A company called Varia Mobile later spun off from AOL and most likely that's how the patent ended up in the hands of Varia Holdings.

Now, Varia Holdings is saying that Samsung phones, including the Acclaim, Nexus S, Captivate, Epic, Galaxy Nexus, and Transform, infringe the patent, along with Bold, Curve, Pearl, and Storm Blackberry phones, according to Ars Technica. For these two companies that could mean a big :(.