OK this patent thing is getting out of hand. There have been a lot of ridiculous patents being filed recently.
A patent cannot be obtained if the idea is obvious and I'd say that with mobile phone text messaging it was pretty obvious that people would be using emoticons from day one. If this patent goes through then it's just another reason to totally scrap the current patent system and begin anew.
Cingular should be ashamed of itself.
The method and system described in the patent allows a user of a mobile phone (or other device) to select a displayable icon, such as an emoticon, that indicates the mood or emotion of the user or conveys other information independent of text. In some embodiments, the selected displayable icon is inserted into a text message or screen, such as an instant message, chat screen, or user text field.
The patent number is US 2006/0015812 A1