The Smiley Company
In London in 1996, Nicolas Loufrani and his father, French journalist Franklin Loufrani, started the Smiley licensing company, taking back all pre-existing trademark rights Franklin Loufrani had maintained in the Smiley logo since 1971.
Growing the Smiley brand
Nicolas Loufrani extended the registration of the brand name and began to associate the logo more closely with the name by creating a new brand identity for labels, packaging, catalogs, and similar articles. He also set up worldwide representation and provided support for all licensing partners, through a comprehensive brand strategy. The intention was to establish the logo on the same level as other iconic logos such as the Nike Swoosh, or the Lacoste Crocodile.
By 1997 the younger Loufrani was creating new designs for the company's products resulting in many variations of the original Smiley logo. These icons were posted as .gif files on the Web in 1998. They were also published as the official Smiley Dictionary, with each one replacing a pre-existing Emoticon made up of punctuation marks. The intention was to allow people to use colourful icons to enhance their texts, instead of plain punctuation.
In 2001 The Smiley Company entered into a long legal dispute in the United States with the supermarket brand Wal-Mart, which claimed to be the owner of the rights over the original figurative brand. This conflict did not involve any disagreement over the rights to the icons created by Nicolas Loufrani, or the Smiley brand name. The case was eventually settled between both parties in 2010, before a Federal court in Chicago, on undisclosed terms.
A combination of the company's prior work and the profile generated by the court case resulted in high awarenes of the Smiley logo, and new partners were licensed to brand products like clothing, perfume, plush, stationery and to run promotional campaigns.
In 2005 the Loufranis established a charity, The SmileyWorld Association (SWA). Nicolas Loufrani then took the decision to commercialize ethical products, by using organic cotton for clothing, fair trade sourcing and by turning over some company profits to the SmileyWorld Association.
Partnerships and Concept Stores
Nicolas Loufrani has established partnerships with high-profile designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Ora ito, and Jean Charles de Castelbajac, and "Smiley" started to appear in famous concept stores such as Colette in Paris, Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Henry Bendel in New York and Stierblut in Munich.
In December 2011, the first Smiley concept store was opened, in London.
The Smiley Company is one of the 100 biggest licensing companies in the world and had a turnover of $167 million in 2012.