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A smiley or happy face (/), is a stylized representation of a smiling human face, commonly represented as a yellow (many other colors are also used) circle (or sphere) with two black dots representing eyes and a black half circle representing the mouth. “Smiley” is also sometimes used as a generic term for any emoticon.

The variant spelling "smilie" is not as common, but the plural form "smilies" (the plural of "smily", not "smiley") is commonly used.

The iconic smiley with the black ink smile and two oval dots for eyes inside of a black circle printed on a yellow background was created by freelance artist Harvey R. Ball in 1963 in an advertising campaign by The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts. Ball never copyrighted or trademarked the symbol resulting in its being in the public domain and modified by countless artists over the years.

Licensing and legal issues

Smiley has been a registered trademark in some countries since 1971 when French journalist Franklin Loufrani created "Smiley World" to sell, advertise and license the smiley face image in the United Kingdom and Europe. The Smiley name and logo is registered and used in over 100 countries for 25 classes of goods and services. Loufrani had created the icon in 1971 to highlight good news in newspaper articles.[1]

In 1999, Harvey Ball formed World Smile Corporation and began licensing the smiley face to fund his undiscovered charitable causes. Profits are distributed to charities through the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, which also sponsors the annual World Smile Day Ball started in 1999 to encourage "acts of kindness."[2]

In 2006 Wal-Mart, which prominently featured a smiley in its "Rolling Back Prices" campaign, sought to trademark the smiley face in the United States, coming into legal conflict with Loufrani and Smiley World over the matter.[3][4] In 2006 Wal-mart began to phase out the smiley face on its vests[5] and its website.[6]

During a trademark infringement case against an online parodist, Wal-Mart again tried to claim it held the trademark rights to the yellow smiley face. In March 2008, Wal-Mart lost the case and the judge stated in his decision that Wal-Mart did not own rights to the smiley face.[7]

In 2008, the Russian entrepreneur Oleg Teterin, president of the mobile phone company Superfone, claimed a trademark for the emoticon smiley that included ownership of Aiwan-wink3.gif and closely related smileys. He says he does not intend to go after individual users, but rather intends for companies who plan to use the emoticons to pay him royalties.[8]

In 2008 Loufrani lost his case in the EU when he tried to register the right half of the Smiley-mouth as a separate trademark.[9]

Typographical smileys

The satirical U.S. magazine Puck presented these typographical emoticons on March 30, 1881.

Main article: Emoticons

Many typographical representations of smiley faces have been developed over the years. Some feature non-smiling expressions or other elaborations. They come in two main varieties, those meant to be viewed sideways, and those meant to be seen upright.

Online Usage- The smiley face is a wide part of today's text messaging language or online slang. It is displayed as :-) or :) or 8-) or even :].

Icon Meaning
:-) classic smile with nose (Unicode: ☺ #263A)
:-( classic frown with nose (Unicode: ☹ #2639)
:) classic smile without nose
:( classic frown without nose
Ü classic vertical smile without nose

The two original text smileys, :-) to indicate a joke and :-( to mark things that are not a joke were invented on September 19, 1982 by Scott E. Fahlman, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Computer Science. His original post at the CMU CS general board, where he suggested the use of the smileys, was retrieved on September 10, 2002 by Jeff Baird from an October 1982 backup tape of the spice vax (cmu-750x) as proof to support the claim.[10]

More recently, small, in-line graphical images of smileys and other faces have become popular, especially on forums:

Smiley Expression
Nomicons-original.gif Simple Smile is usually written like this, :) or (: or :] or [: or =) or (= or :-) or (-:
It can also be done by using ALT + (keypad) 1, getting ☺. Or also the same thing only using: 2 getting ☻
Nomicons-blink.gif Confused Smiley is usually written like this, :S or S: or :/ or :\ or /: or o_O or O_O or o.O or O.O

It is also known as "a dolleke", see famous person.

Nomicons-sad.gif Simple Frown is usually written like this, :( or ): or :[ or ]: or :'( or )': or :-( or )-:
Nomicons-ohmy.gif Shocked Smiley is usually written like this, :O or O: or :o or o: or :-O (with nose) or D:

It can also be done by using ALT + (keypad) 0246, getting ö.

Nomicons-tongue.gif Smiley with Tongue sticking out is usually written like this, Unknown tongue.gif or q: or Unknown tongue.gif

If you use ASCII keys then, :Þ, is also possible. Press ALT + (keypad) 0222 for "Þ"

Nomicons-biggrin.gif Smiley with big grin is usually written like this, Aiwan-biggrin.gif or :]] or [[: or XD

The reverse, or left-handed, smileys (-: have also gained popularity for being a way to avoid having text smileys converted to graphical representations in certain settings such as instant messaging programs.


  1. ^ Smiley Story. Smiley World website.
  2. ^ World Smile website
  3. ^ "Wal-Mart seeks smiley face rights". BBC News. 8 May 2006.
  4. ^ "Loufrani v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.", Opposition No. 91152145 (Filed July 23, 2002)
  5. ^ Kabel, Mark (October 22, 2006). "Wal-Mart phasing out smiley face vests". Associated Press.
  6. ^ Williamson, Richard (October 30, 2006). "The last days of Wal-Mart’s smiley face". Adweek.
  7. ^ "Wal-Mart loses trademark on smiley face". Boing Boing. 28 March 2008.
  8. ^ "Oleg Teterin, Russian Entrepeneur, Trademarks an Emoticon". Huffington Post. 11 December 2008.
  9. ^ "EuG: Bildmarke in Form eines halben Smileys nicht schutzfähig". markenmagazin:recht. 29 September 2009.
  10. ^ Mike Jones (September 12, 2002), The First Smiley :-),, retrieved May 31, 2007
Article Information
Author: Administrator
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Last Modified: June 1, 2010

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