Nicolas Loufrani

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Nicolas Loufrani (born December 17, 1971 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) is the CEO of the Smiley Company, which owns the trademark and copyright over the Smiley face and name in over 100 countries.[1]

The Smiley Company[edit]

Main article: Smiley
Nicolas Loufrani

In London in 1996, Nicolas Loufrani and his father, French journalist Franklin Loufrani, started the Smiley licensing company,[2] taking back all pre-existing trademark rights Franklin Loufrani had maintained in the Smiley logo since 1971.[3]

Growing the Smiley brand[edit]

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[peacock term] 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[4] Crocodile.

Graphical emoticons[edit]

In 1997 Nicolas Loufrani [5] recognized the growth in use of ascii emoticons within mobile technology and he started experimenting with animated Smiley faces,[6] with the intention of creating colourful icons that corresponded to the pre-existing ascii emoticons made of plain punctuation marks, to enhance them for a more interactive use in digital. From this Loufrani compiled an online Emoticon Dictionary [7] that was sorted into separate categories - Classics, Moods expressions, Flags, Celebrations, Fun, Sports, Weather, Animals, Food, Nations, Occupations, Planets, Zodiac, Babies and these designs were first registered in 1997 at The United States Copyright Office and then these icons were posted as .gif files on the Web in 1998, becoming the first ever graphical emoticons used in technology.[8]

In 2000 the Emoticon Directory created by Loufrani was made available for users to download for cellular phones on the internet through which compiled over 1000 smiley graphic emoticons and their ascii versions. This same directory was then published in 2002 in a book by Marabout called Dico Smileys.[9]

In 2001 the Smiley company Smiley Company started licensing the rights for Loufrani's graphic emoticons to be used for cellular phone emoticon downloads by a variety of different telecommunication companies including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, SFR (vodaphone) and Sky Telemedia.

Wal-Mart dispute[edit]

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.[3] This conflict did not involve any disagreement over the rights to the icons created by Nicolas Loufrani, or the Smiley brand name.[10] 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.[11]

SmileyWorld Association[edit]

In 2005 the Loufranis established a charity, The SmileyWorld Association (SWA).[12] Nicolas Loufrani then took the decision to commercialize ethical products, by using organic cotton for clothing, fair trade sourcing[13] and by turning over some company profits to the SmileyWorld Association.[14]

Partnerships and concept stores[edit]

Nicolas Loufrani has established partnerships with high-profile designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Ora ito,[15] and Jean Charles de Castelbajac,[16] 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.[17]

In December 2011, the first Smiley concept store was opened, in London.[18]

Financial ranking[edit]

The Smiley Company is one of the 100 biggest licensing companies in the world and had a turnover of $167 million in 2012.[19]


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