From the patent for the image now known even to a child – a smiley – a successful business has grown, and its owners – father and son Lufrani – have become millionaires
Two eyes and a smile on a yellow background – such a funny face, or, in other words, a smiley, entered popular culture back in the 1960s. In the film “Forrest Gump” (1994), his appearance is played up: The gump wiped the dirt from his face with a white T-shirt, and such a face was imprinted on it.
It seems that the knowledge about the smiley 26-year-old designer, founder of the brand Chinatown Market Mike Cherman limited only to this film. In 2016, he released a series of emoticon T-shirts. Less than two weeks later, the court arrested the entire party on a claim of copyright infringement.
“I was amazed that someone could own a smiley,” recalls Cherman about how he learned about the existence of the European firm Smiley Company. It was founded by the Frenchman Franklin Lufrani almost half a century ago – and became a millionaire. In the 1990s, when interest in the symbol began to fade, his son Nicolas came to the rescue. He became one of the authors of emoticons, which we now use with might and main, sending messages from a smartphone, making posts on forums or comments on social networks.
“If I received a santime with each message with a smiley, I would be the richest man in the world!” – Lufrani Sr. grieved. “To my great regret, I did not come up with a business model for the Internet,” his son added. “But unlike pirated music online, it does not ruin us, but it helps sales.” People use emoticons for free, their popularity is growing. But legal entities have to pay – it was surprisingly found out by AOL, when the designer placed a free smiley face on his web page. The phone manufacturers must also shell out if their applications have faces that look like Lufrani patents.
Every year, Lufrani receives from the sale of emoticon rights to manufacturers of jeans and children’s toys, juices and school notebooks, socks and cell covers for tens of millions of dollars. But could get billions.