Sony’s use of Emoji: A possible legal dispute

Sony might have to settle a possible trademark as well as copyright dispute with Marco Husges, before it can release an animated film titled “The Emoji ”.
Marco Husges, is a game developer and emoji creator who has previously worked on the MMO Shadowbane, Starbreeze Studio’s Enclave and had filed for commercial trademark of the word “emoji” back in 2013. He claims to have trademark merchandising rights over 3000 emojis.
The rights over the emoji shouldn’t be confused with the emoticons which we use on phone while sending whatsapp messages and texts. Husges doesn’t own the rights to these emoticons on iPhones (which are trademarked to Apple) or Android devices (trademarked to Google). He only owns the rights to his own designs in addition to words, like “emojitown”and “emojiworld”.
Sony Productions might face trouble for producing the movie with the title “The Emoji ” . Sony might also be in deep waters if it decides to merchandise goods based on the movie as is the normal practice with such animated movies. Sony is quite well aware of its Intellectual property rights and being involved in many such disputes, it is expected that it will not take any action without understanding its legal ramifications.Sony Productions has taken the help of a licensing firm to ensure that the film’s characters will not get entangled in any IPR issues.
Mr. Husges is ready to take the famous production house to Courts, if the Sony produces the movie. He told the media that “I am curious how Sony would want to produce a movie under that name and do accompanying merchandising, especially given the fact our brand has already been successfully established with license partners and retailers all over the world.” He also told that “the reason he trademarked certain aspects of emoji back in 2013 was to eventually adapt the pictograms for film and television use.”
The aspect which is to be pondered upon is whether the term “emoji” can be protected as a trademark when it is descriptive in nature. Emoji is a literal descriptive term for a picture-character, which has been taken from the Japanese language. The Courts will decide its fate, if the dispute stretches that far.

Authored by Sambhavi Patnaik

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