This is just getting ridiculous. First, Apple sues for its "Slide-to-unlock" patent, and now Varia Holdings Inc. sues for a patent regarding using a menu to select an emoticon instead of typing it character-by-character. I mean, really? How did this even get a patent in the first place? Take a look at the picture below. "It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications... often involve the use of emoticons, such as the 'smiling face' or the 'sad face,'" the patent says. "However, few email or instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications."
If this patent is true, they need to be suing more than just Samsung and RIM. Microsoft Live Messenger, AIM, and Skype all have menus for emoticon selection. So why just these two companies? It appears they have the most infringing devices. The lawsuit claims a long list of Samsung phones infringe along with Blackberry's Bold, Curve, Pearl, and Storm. If you would like to read the patent for yourself, you can view it here.
The courts really need to issue a smack down upon this lawsuit and develop some case-law regarding what technology can be patented. This is hardly a technology; this is just a user interface, and nothing revolutionary at that. People have been using menus ever since the GUI was invented. Take for example last year when an appeals court ruled that a patent on the concept of detecting credit card fraud was too abstract to merit patent protection. This is a similar idea here. Only time will tell what the courts actually do, though.