Does Wal-Mart have dibs on the smiley face?

The whole idea of trademarking the smiley face seems silly, considering that the symbol surely dates from caveman times. But Wal-Mart is trying to secure the trademark in the U.S., after a Frenchman threatened to do so first. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should make a decision this summer. If Wal-Mart prevails, it could keep its competitors from using the smiley face on ads and in-store materials. The Frenchman, Franklin Loufrani, is an opportunist—he began securing trademarks for the smiley face around the world in the 1970s and has reportedly earned millions in licensing fees on the image. Wal-Mart says it’s been using the smiley face officially since 1996 and unofficially for years before that. A rep says: “It is kind of ironic that this whole dispute is about a smiley face. But in the end, it is what it is: It’s a mark that we have a tremendous investment in and is very closely identified with our company.”

—Posted by Tim Nudd

Recommended articles