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Smiley Brand Protection

Over 5 decades, The Smiley Company has significantly influenced the creative industries,  fiercely protecting its intellectual property due to the unique creative vision and business acumen of its founder and important investments in time and talent from numerous collaborators.

Since founding the Company in 1972, Franklin and Nicolas Loufrani have built a new and unique business model based on creative partnerships with third party manufacturers and retailers, creating a brand operating in almost 150 countries.

The Smiley Company's business model has been compared to Peter Drucker's theory that corporations could operate with a small team of senior management, with partnerships and outsourcing a major component when bringing products to market. In the book The Michelangelo Project: Making It in the Digital Century Workforce, author Isabel Wu explained that The Smiley Company deployed a real-world example of Drucker's business theory. Its vast library of images, designs and concepts are then used by other companies to develop and manufacture products.

The founders have been business and culture innovators who made bold steps on the marketing of happiness and emotional intelligence, the licensing of lifestyle IP’s, digital marketing, fashion marketing through music, digital communication, language as well as supporting game changers in the charity sector.

The spirit of creativity and perseverance through all these years is what makes The Smiley Company an internationally recognized lifestyle consumer products company.

Our brand's cultural, intellectual, and artistic influence resonates globally, garnering recognition. Acknowledged as one of the most influential intellectual properties in recent decades by our peers, we have received various awards for our significant creativity and impact and have been featured in many news articles or books.

The Smiley Company is deeply committed to the protection of its brands, licensees, retail partners and consumers against counterfeit. 

Protecting our Brands

The Smiley Company, is the holder of a large trademark portfolio worldwide, including the Smiley Original Logo and the SMILEY name.  

The first trademark for the Smiley Original Logo was registered in France in 1971, and thereafter in most countries in the world.

From 1997, the company has been creating variations of the Smiley logo for its products and for use as gif icons and stickers in the digital world. It was the first to make the claim that graphics as a replacement of ASCII emoticons made of punctuation would become a universal language and the first to sort these graphics into categories such as emotions, sport, characters, food and fruits, celebrations, weather and more.

By 2004 there were more than 3000 of these icons. Through time their art direction has been evolving in style. Here are some examples:

Its subsidiary, SmileyWorld Ltd, owns copyright registrations for tens of thousands of graphics, including various iterations of the Smiley Original Logo. Collaborating with its partners, the company creates and develops nearly 15,000 new products and hundreds of marketing campaigns each year. SmileyWorld Ltd utilizes registered trademarks, copyrighted logos, and creative graphics designed by the Smiley Studio under the direction of its creative director, Nicolas Loufrani.

The rights in these trademarks and copyrights have been cultivated through significant creative efforts, marketing investments, an innovative business model, and the development of creative products for our licensees over more than five decades.

Our copyrights and trademarks pertain to the designs we have crafted, visible on our products, in our marketing materials, and within our figurative and nominal marks like Smiley or our taglines, such as "Take the time to smile" or “Future Positive”.

Brand protection Program

Counterfeit goods are a major concern for The Smiley Company. The Company invests in financial and human resources to fight against producers and sellers of counterfeit products, free riding on our efforts to create a unique brand and creating confusion in the marketplace.

We have a dedicated team of Intellectual Property and brand protection specialists that carry out many actions, which include both preventative and coercive measures.

We partner with local authorities including customs offices, investigators, law enforcement agencies, and law firms globally to shut down counterfeiting operations and remove the infringed products from the market. 

These actions are implemented worldwide with special attention given to the Internet, which represents an important vehicle for the sale of counterfeit products. 

The Smiley Company constantly monitors websites, marketplaces and social media platforms to detect counterfeit goods and avoid giving more visibility to counterfeits. Every year, The Smiley Company is successful in taking down a large number of listings/ advertisements on sales platforms and pages on social sites that breach its Intellectual Property rights.

Additionally, The Smiley Company is a member of key organizations dedicated to brand protection, including the INTA (International Trademark Association).

Traceability and Brand Protection features:

We provide to our licensees sustainable security stickers, labels and hangtags which allow the consumers to authenticate Smiley’s products, to ensure that they feel secure about the purchase they are making.


The Smiley Company has the legal right to protect their intellectual property and may take legal action against businesses or individuals that infringe on its copyrights and/or trademarks.

Using The Smiley Company’s logos, trademarks, or other brand identifiers without permission or in a manner that could cause confusion or mislead consumers can lead to trademark infringement.

Therefore, if you are using one of our protected icons for commercial purposes, it’s important to obtain proper licenses and permissions to avoid any potential legal issues.

There are many misconceptions related to infringements and intellectual property law. We have listed some of them: 

  • It is a handmade product; I have created my own products.” 

Creating and selling your “own” products featuring any of the registered trademarks from our portfolio, especially our famous “Smiley Original Logo” and its variations or our trademarked brand name “SMILEY” even with another word next to it, could be considered as copyright and or trademark infringement. 

  • I can see other sellers/stores using Smiley” :

It is not because someone else is infringing our rights that you are allowed to do so. It does not prevent us from sending you a cease and desist letter or taking legal action if we consider that you infringe our intellectual property.  

  • I only use Smiley’s name in the title, description and tag of my product

Using our trademarked brand name to describe and associate your product listings with our brand is also illegal. It drives consumers looking for our products away from the legitimate retail partners selling them. This may be considered as unfair competition and trademark infringement.

  • Use of Unicode logos

The Smiley Company supports the use of logos belonging to the tech companies members of the Unicode Consortium as a means of online communication. Each company, such as Meta, Apple or Microsoft have developed their own unique art direction from 2008, they own the copyright to these. We consider them to find inspiration from our creations and the concept we introduced from 1997. Well ahead of his time, Nicolas Loufrani created a new universal form of digital communication by conceiving a variety of round, yellow and simple facial expressions to replace words in digital communication.

Follow this link to read an interview on the inspiration behind Unicode icons.

We inspired a visual-communication revolution and the emotion category in Unicode was inspired by our work on emotion representation. Nicolas Loufrani conceived most of the Smiley emotions in front of his mirror, expressing them himself and sketching them before having the artists of the Smiley studio finalise them in 3D style. For some more conceptual statements such as love or cool, he arbitrarily decided to use heart eyes or sunglasses. All of this has been dated and recorded with the Washington library of congress. The iconography he inspired is now massively used around the world. 

More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ2ENxPdyQg

All other categories of logographs are a representation of reality and are not in line with Smiley's art direction, they follow our concept of a logographic system sorted by categories (weather, characters, animals, sports, celebrations, flags, occupations etc...) to communicate online, but unlike ours, are not systematically round, yellow and with common Smiley eyes and mouths. 

You can see here the key conceptual differences between Smiley's art and the logographic fonts used by Unicode members:

  • Smiley's iconic eyes and mouth distinguishes our icons from others on the market

The Unicode project successfully realized Nicolas’s vision, ushering in the “birth of a universal language”. When smartphones appeared, we did not have the technology and network to take this to the next level. We take joy in our initial contribution to this universal language that brings the non-verbal cues of human communication into online texts and helps bring people together. 

And we are proud to see the Smiley studio continue reinventing our iconography as a design and art driven brand, while also creating programs to develop the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in schools or public spaces. Our sports icons have now become a sporting goods collection together with the über hip American streetwear brand Market, and our characters, animals and weather signs transformed into the beautiful universe of Mini Smiley, our cartoon for kids.

  • The Harvey Ball Urban Myth.

There is no relation between the Smiley brand and Harvey Ball. Click here to read our position about this urban myth.


  • Creating and redistributing digital content with our logos and names for commercial purposes is an infringement. 
  • Creating and redistributing products using our brand name, “Smiley”, and/or one of our logos to advertise or promote non-Smiley products or businesses is an infringement.
  • Creating and selling merchandise mentioning The Smiley Company is an infringement. 

Infringement on Etsy and/or other e-commerce platforms

The Smiley Company is protective of their intellectual property, including their copyrighted icons, logos, and designs.

If you are selling items on Etsy and/or other e-commerce platforms which comprise SMILEY®, SMILEYWORLD®, and the Smiley Original Logo and its variations without permission, you are likely to be infringing on our intellectual property rights. 

Even if you draw the designs yourself, if they look confusingly similar to one of our icons and other creations, it could still be considered as an infringement of our intellectual property. 

We monitor and enforce copyright and trademark infringements via several online brand protection service provider. We also send cease-and-desist letters (to first time infringers) and (in case of repeat infringement) we may initiate legal proceedings. 

Our icons are protected by copyright and trademark laws, and unauthorised use can lead to legal consequences. Therefore,  permission must be obtained from The Smiley Company or our licensees.

Collaborate with us 

Feel free to reach out to The Smiley Company to inquire about using our icons for your specific needs. Kindly provide details on your intended use, the duration, and the territories involved. If we agree to grant a license, a licensing fee may apply.

Reporting Infringement

We do not encourage the reporting of infringements by third parties. We do not think reporting people is a nice human behaviour. It is usually triggered by hatred and jealousy. Our partners and ourselves are doing their best to identify infringing products and it is our own business to do so.

Questions on product authentication 

For any questions, or to report a counterfeit, please contact our anti-counterfeit team: brandprotection@smiley.com

If you have received an email about an infringement from any other company than smiley.com it is one of our external anti-piracy partners.