Folklaw 26 May

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

Mr Smiley vs M Souriant?Did you know the little smiley face you adorn your emails and Post-it notes with actually belongs to someone? American retail giant Wal-Mart is bitterly fighting in…

Mr Smiley vs M Souriant?

Did you know the little smiley face you adorn your emails and Post-it notes with actually belongs to someone? American retail giant Wal-Mart is bitterly fighting in court a French entrepreneur who has earned millions in licensing fees since the early 1970s, when he began securing trademarks for the happy face around the world. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which uses the smiley to put shoppers in a good mood, says it has exclusive rights to what it calls Mr Smiley. The two sides are expected to wrap up their cases before the US Patent and Trademark Office this summer.

The man widely credited with creating Mr Smiley was the late Harvey Ball, a Massachusetts graphic artist commissioned by an insurer in 1963 to improve employee morale. For his efforts, Ball earned all of $45. By the time he thought to copyright the design in the 1970s, his happy face was already part of the public domain.


Frenchman Franklin Loufrani, who has claimed that he created le smiley after the 1968 student riots in Paris, has trademarked the symbol in at least 80 countries. For its part, Wal-Mart has invested billions of dollars through the years linking the store to the yellow grinning face.

It might seem a waste of legal resources, but trademarking an ubiquitous symbol isn’t without precedent. Apples are everywhere, but that didn’t stop Apple Computer Inc from registering its name or trademark.

Wal-Mart is applying to be the exclusive purveyor of smileys among retail department stores only. So whatever happens, we can all continue to punctuate our messages comme ca :)

Judges hate speed traps too

A truck driver prosecuted for obstructing police by alerting motorists to a speed trap won the backing of three law lords when they ruled in his favour in a test case. Trucker Charles Glendinning was convicted last year by magistrates in Somerset, UK of wilful obstruction after police said he waved a warning to other road-users about a speed trap. The decision was overturned at Taunton Crown Court. Now three law lords in the High Court have decided there was no evidence that any of the motorists warned by Glendinning had been breaking the speed limit or were about to do so.

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Justice Owen added that some people might think the police ought to appreciate the efforts of others to prevent speeding. Touche.

Law booms in China unevenly

The Peoples Daily has reported that the People’s Republic of China now has 114,000 lawyers and 11,691 law firms. China’s lawyers annually handle over 1.5 million court cases and over 800,000 non-litigious matters. However, lawyers are still thin on the ground in the central and western parts of China. In 206 counties, there are no lawyers at all. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Juror all bummed out

An American juror was ordered to sit on a court bench three days a week, every other week, after he balked at serving on the jury. A Mr Schramm, 31, spent three days serving on the federal grand jury before writing a letter to the judge, US District Judge Bernard A Friedman, asking to be let off. He wrote that since he lacked respect for law enforcement or the way trials are conducted, expected the six-month jury assignment would bankrupt him, and what’s more, believed minorities were more violent and criminal than whites, he ought to be excused.

As punishment for contempt, under Friedman’s verbal order, Schramm had to sit on a first-floor bench all day, and didn’t get juror pay or mileage reimbursement.

The judge finally lifted the 14 February order on Thursday. “This whole thing is worse than anything I have ever been through in my life,” Schramm told The Detroit News. Well, that should learn ‘im.

Folklaw 26 May
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