The Smiley Company
|Industry||Brand licensing, Marketing|
|Franklin Loufrani, Founder and president |
Nicolas Loufrani, CEO
|Revenue||€ 185 million (2016)|
Number of employees
The Smiley Company is a brand licensing company that holds the rights to smiley face symbols in over 100 countries (notably not including the United States). The company is considered[by whom?] one of the top 100 licensing companies in the world and creates products including textiles, puzzles, party goods, stationery, automobile accessories, and toys for licensed brand partners and retailers.
The company's signature smiley, which closely resembles the iconic smiley face created by U.S. graphic artist Harvey Ross Ball in 1963, was created by journalist Franklin Loufrani in 1971 as a way to indicate to readers of the French newspaper France-Soir which stories held good news. Before the campaign started, in October 1971, Loufrani registered his smiley face with the French trademark office. By the 1990s, Franklin and his son Nicolas Loufrani held trademarks for the symbol in around 70 countries and had licensed the smiley to brands including Levi Strauss & Co.
In 1996, the Loufranis founded the Smiley Company in London, England, built around the Smiley brand. In 1997, Nicolas created hundreds of emoticons, including a 3D smiley logo. Some sources incorrectly claim that Nicolas was the first to create portrait-orientation emoticons,[need quotation to verify] but various prior usage of portrait-format emoticons dates back to as early as 1972. His images, registered with the United States Copyright Office in 1997, were first published as GIF files on the internet in 1998, making them the first graphical emoticons used in technology. He launched the SmileyWorld brand shortly thereafter. In the early 2000s, the company licensed the rights to their emoticons to telecom companies, including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, amongst others. Nicolas Loufrani compiled his graphical emoticons, along with other existing images used for communication, into an online dictionary which was divided into categories, and by 2002, the dictionary included over 3,000 images.
Dispute with Walmart
In 1997, the Smiley Company filed a trademark application for its smiley with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2001, Walmart opposed the registration, citing a likelihood of confusion between the Loufrani smiley and a smiley face Walmart had been using since 1990. The USPTO eventually sided with Walmart and rejected the Smiley Company's application, due to widespread use of smiley face designs. Seeking to prevent Walmart from using any smiley face design, Nicolas Loufrani next sued Walmart in federal court in 2009, while claiming that his smiley face was "readily distinguishable" from Walmart's. The case was closed in 2011 when the two parties agreed to settle out of court. The terms of the settlement were undisclosed, but Walmart continued to use its smiley design intermittently and returned to using it in a major marketing role in 2016.
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