The Smiley Face Goes to Court
Until now the smiley face -- which appears on everything from auto air fresheners to toilet seat covers -- had been considered in the public domain in the U.S., and therefore free for anyone to use. That includes Wal-Mart, which uses the logo throughout its stores.
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley (awful close to smiley, isn't it) told the Los Angeles Times that the mega-merchandiser had not moved to register the trademark until a Frenchman threatened to so so.
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.
The Frenchman is Franklin Loufrani, one of many people who claim to have invented the ubiquitous logo.
The clever Loufrani and his London-based SmileyWorld own the rights to the logo in more than 80 countries around the world, but the U.S. is not on the list. At least not so far.