Oleg Teterin has decided to trademark his emoticon. ";-)" and it's been passed by the Russian Federal Agency.
This means that if you use that smiley, you are in breach of Russian copyright laws. And using the 'Look and Feel' corollary, that also extends to ":)", ":->" and most variations.
However, good old Oleg has been magnanimous to only pursue it when used by big companies. Humble comrades such as yourselves will be able to use it freely, unless of course it's in work related mails, in which case it will be off to the salt mines with you.
Companies may be permitted to use it after paying an annual fee, but Oleg says "I want to highlight that this is only directed at corporations, companies that are trying to make a profit without the permission of the trademark holder."
Which, given the status of poor Alexey Pajitnov, who has still never received a cent from his little block game, might be the Russians kickback at the idea of trademarks.
Not all Russians feel the same way though. The President of Russian social networking site odnoklassniki.ru, Nikita Sherman said: "You're not likely to find any retards in Russia who'll pay [him] for the use of emoticons".
This isn't the first time this has happened. In 2005, a St. Petersburg court upheld an appeal from the German corporation Siemens, which was sued by a Russian man claiming he held the trademark to ":-)".
Update News Moves Fast : Russia Today has already come out and said that "The smiley graphic symbol is incapable of individualising the products and can't fulfill the function of a trademark, therefore it can't be registered as one."
But the quote from Nikita Sherman still stands.