Blog: Wal-Mart forces a smile

Catherine Sleep | 4 July 2006

The smiley face... I’ve always considered it a universal symbol of goodwill, light heartedness and cheer. Wince-inducingly cheesy but useful and uncontroversial. Think again! Wal-Mart wants to trademark it, and is prepared for a fight.

Trouble is, someone else got there first. French company SmileyWorld own the rights in more than 80 countries and has already successfully fought off a trademark case from AOL. Owner Nicolas Loufrani is prepared to take on the might of Wal-Mart, which uses the symbol to highlight its low prices, to protect commercial rights to the little symbol he claims to have registered first.

I really feel it’s a bit silly to bother the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over this. It’s a smiley face, and kids have been drawing them with their first set of crayons since time began. Or since crayons began, anyway. But then Nike got its ‘tick’ logo trademarked and how long have ticks been around?



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