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This is just kind of crazy. A Russian businessman has trademarked “;-)” — yes, the winking smiley face emoticon. Oleg Teterin now owns the rights to it according to the Russian federal patent agency, the Associated Press reports.

Teterin, the president of Superfone, a mobile advertising company, has promised that he won’t sue individuals who use the emoticon for personal purposes, like text messaging. But he is threatening to go after any companies that try to use the symbol for profit. Even better, he says that the similar symbols :-) and :) likely fall under his trademark as well.

Here’s my favorite quote from the piece:

“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 NTV.

Even more interesting is that Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University here in the United States, claims that he was the first person to use the symbol 25 years ago. :O

All I know is that I really hope that there is at least one lawsuit over this. How ridiculous will it be to see adults in court arguing over an emoticon?

This reminds me of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers saying that his father claimed to have invented the question mark. Except this isn’t a movie spoof, this is real.

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