A shell company capped off a week of patent controversy by suing two popular phone makers for including a button that lets users put a smiley face in their messages.
Varia Holdings LLC filed a complaint in New York that accuses Samsung and BlackBerry maker RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) of infringing US Patent 7167731 titled “Emoticon input method and apparatus.”
According to Varia, the invention is:
“an input key that, when pressed by the user while in text mode, results in the display of a list of emoticons for selection by the user. By displaying a list of emoticons, a more user friendly environment is created through which users may employ emoticons in their communications.”
Varia claims that devices like the BlackBerry, the Galaxy Nexus and Droid all infringe the patent and asks the court to award damages and ban the companies from selling the devices.
The lawsuit comes days after Yahoo! (NSDQ: YHOO) sued Facebook for infringing ten patents that allegedly show that Yahoo was the real inventor of social networks.
The emoticon complaint also coincides with an uptick of patent trolls — shell companies that don’t make anything but sue companies that do — backed by venture capital.
Here’s the complaint: