Debate over facepalm emoji trademark stirs controversy

The facepalm emoji was filed for trademark in November 2017. [Screenshot via Weibo]

The popularity of emojis has already caused plenty of controversy in China, but the latest issue is unlike the ones that came before.

The facepalm is one of most recognizable and most used emojis on Chinese instant messaging app WeChat, and a trademark of the image that was made so it can be used on clothing has triggered a potential legal dispute between its creator and WeChat's parent company, the Chinese tech giant Tencent.

Tencent said it's looking to file an objection in order to further review the trademark, Beijing Youth Daily (BYD) reports.

The emoji was filed for trademark by a retailer surnamed Jin in November 2017 under a category for clothing that can include outfits for children and accessories, according to images that have surfaced online, showing that the case has been approved for initial review with China's Trademark Office of The State Administration for Industry & Commerce.

The retailer started printing the WeChat facepalm emoji on clothing after seeing just how popular it was online.

Jin brushed off concerns of copyright infringement, saying, “It wasn't as popular back then when I used it." according got BYD.

Many netizens didn't come to Tencent's defense in the issue, mainly because the company is so large that copyright infringement complaints and allegations are common.

But the issue also caused a minor panic as many were no longer sure if they could still use the facepalm emoji after all, so they spammed the emoji all over social media.

Other emojis that have gone viral, such as the doge emoji, are also being heavily posted on social media in an attempt by netizens to make sure other emojis they like can't be copyrighted.

(Source: CGTN)