Has Sony’s new Emoji film hit a Trademark wall?

According to Oxford dictionaries an emoji is “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication”. Since they first appeared in the 1990s in Japan, emojis have taken the world by storm and infiltrated our virtual lives. They are constantly appearing on our social media feeds and in our private messages both off and online. However most people do not realise that some of the emojis in use are intellectual property and therefore cannot be freely distributed or used without obtaining a licence from their legal owner.

When Sony envisioned the announcement of their new film “The Emoji Movie” they did not expect it to lead to an intellectual property war. In October 2015 their applications for the emoji trademarks for the film were rejected as Marco Husges, an ex-video game executive, already owned most of the ones that they were applying for.

The businessman and owner of The Emoji Co. filed his first emoji trademarks in 2013 and although he doesn’t own the icons that are frequently used on social media, he has designed and trademarked more than 3000 emojis for commercial use.  

According to The Hollywood Reporter, when Husges heard that Sony were going to release a film about emojis he declared "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". Furthermore, the German businessman is planning to use his trademarks to launch his own films and television series.

Despite this slight setback, Sony are still going to proceed with the making of their film and are set to release it on 11th August 2017.

A trademark is a worthwhile investment as it will protect your brand and allow you to enforce your trademark rights over other companies that may infringe upon your mark. However, before filing for your chosen trademark you should always do some research into the  names that are available in your chosen marketplace to reduce the likelihood of opposition and the risk of forfeiting the registration fees if the mark you applied for is already owned.