Saturday, November 12, 2016

Oh, patents! Oh, emoji!

Copyright @ Françoise Herrmann

You might be wondering... What could possibly be patentable in an emoji?  

Emoji are the cutest pictograms. And graphics are more art, than an inventive solution to a technical problem with a potential for being useful, or manufactured commercially.

The answer is plenty!  A search for emoji patents at the EPO returned 19 patents.  A search for emoji patents at Google Patents returned 430 patents! 

But first, if emoji are to function as characters that can be selected on mobile devices (including phones, tablets and computers), they initially have to be encoded in the Unicode standard that supports all characters on the Internet, so that they might, in turn, become available as keyboard options via the various operating systems of mobile devices. And incidentally, the inclusion of an emoji in Unicode invokes an 18-month application process, and a vote of the Unicode Consortium. The Consortium has committed to adding about 70 emoji per year so that about half of the emoji proposals currently make the cut every year. (Burge, 2016; Hess, 2016)  

Next, once the emoji have been selected for encoding, it might conceivably be possible for an emoji to function as a “clickable" emoji, connected to web content, so that someone receiving an emoji could access the information connected to the emoji. Indeed, for this to be possible, someone would have to invent a way to provide a messaging environment where emoji could be "clickable", that is, where the emoji could be sent and received with content attached to them. Actually, in a nutshell, this is precisely the AR (Augmented Reality) type invention disclosed in WO2015163937A1, titled Clickable emoji.

Secondly, in another example for encoded emoji, it might be possible to make emoji searchable on the internet, assuming they could be tagged, aggregated and also used for tagging. In this case, a system would have to be invented to enable both emoji tagging and emoji searching on the Internet. This is precisely what the emoji 3.0 platform invention is about, and it is disclosed in US2016048492 (A1) titled Platform for internet-based graphical communication.

Sweet list of proposed food emoji for encoding in the next version of Unicode 10.
emoji core of approximately 722 emoji was encoded in Unicode 6.0  [Wikipedia]

And on a more linguistic note… It looks like the term “emoji” is being imported from Japanese into English with a plural “s” in print, whereas my spellchecker has definitely decided that the plural form should remain without an "s". Thus, the final  "i" of emoji looks like the sound of the Latin plural suffix "-ae", for example in "antennae" or "alumnae", although it is pronounced as an "ee" sound! :-)

Burge, j. (2016) Unicode 9 released with 72 new emojis
Emojicon 2016 - A celebration of all things emoji

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