Not to be left behind in the gold rush to gain patents on smiley faces, Cingular has applied for patent #6,990,452, which describes the genius invention of putting an emoticon into a stream of text via an 'emoticon button.' There are some other great innovations here that would never have been invented without the incentive of a 20-year monopoly, such as using the emoticon to influence an animated face that delivers the message, and allowing the user to select the 'amplitude' of the emoticon.
Cingular now joins the illustrious ranks of other smiley-face patent holders, including Microsoft, AT&T, and Jonathan O. Nelson. And, these guys aren't alone -- it seems that a lot of patent applicants think that there is tremendous value in submitting paperwork to the USPTO that could lead to a grant of monopoly power over very basic and obvious applications of smiley-faces in communications systems.
Thanks to goombah99 for pointing out some of the above links.