A Russian businessman has been granted a trademark by that country's federal patent agency for the punctuation marks ; -) that make a winking emoticon in texts and e-mails, reports BBC News.
Oleg Teterin, president of Superfone, a company that sells advertising on mobile phones, says he doesn't care if casual users include the symbol, but companies will have to buy an annual license to use it. Plus he says other similar emoticons could fall under his ownership as well.
Critics, however, question the legality of such a trademark, saying the symbol has been in the public domain for years.
The Associated Press, in a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, reports other Russian Internet entrepreneurs reacted this way: >:( . It quotes Alexander Manis, director of a broadband Internet and mobile company, saying:
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.