RIM, Samsung sued… over emoticons

Well, they must have thought, why not? Everybody else is suing left right and center, why shouldn’t we?

And so Varia Holdings has issued patent lawsuits in Delaware District Court against Samsung and RIM over the use of pop-up emoticon menus.

At issue is a patent issued in 2007 that describes ‘methods and apparatuses associated with the employment of emoticons in textual or non-verbal communications, such as email or instant messaging, practiced on eg mobile communication devices, as in the case of wireless mobile telephones’.

It describes a system for letting users choose an emoticon quickly and easily from a pop-up menu accessed by a special button – just as Samsung and RIM phones do.

The reason that Varia has launched the case now is that Samsung has recently used a similar patent – along with many others – to have a go at Apple. But, says Varia, Samsung is itself infringing Varia’s earlier patent on the same idea.

“Samsung is presently a party to a patent infringement action with Apple in which it is asserting US Patent No. 7,835,729,” reads the complaint. “Therefore… Samsung has recognized the value of the type of invention embodied in the ‘731 patent.”

The patent was originally filed in 2005, and granted two years later to Wildseed, whcih was acquired by AOL before Varia Mobile was spun off from AOL – complete with the patent.

It seems likely that the suit will fail on the grounds of obviousness – after all, pop-up menus are ten a penny – but it could remove one tiny weapon Samsung has against Apple.