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Sony's Emoji movie may face trademark issues from former game developer

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Sony's upcoming animated movie based entirely on the world of emojis, appropriately called The Emoji Movie, is gearing up for production. According to The Hollywood Reporter, however, the studio may also be preparing for a legal battle as one former game developer says he owns the merchandising trademarks for more than 3,000 emoji.

Marco Husges, who worked on the MMO Shadowbane, and on Starbreeze Studios' Enclave, filed for commercial trademarks of the word "emoji" back in 2013. As such, Husges doesn't own the rights to the emoji images people use on their iPhones (which are trademarked to Apple) or Android devices (trademarked to Google), but he does own the rights to his own designs. He also owns the rights to certain words, like "emojitown" and "emojiworld."

"I am curious how Sony would want to produce a movie under that name and do accompanying merchandising, especially given the fact our brand has already been successfully established with license partners and retailers all over the world," Husges told The Hollywood Reporter.

Husges added that the reason he trademarked certain aspects of emoji back in 2013 was to eventually adapt the pictograms for film and television use. He said he believed emojis could be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Minions if the right stories were applied.

Although Sony has plans to move forward with the film, Husges did say that he was ready to take on the studio, but wouldn't outline what that argument could look like.

Following the purchase of the project last summer, Sony filed for its own trademark usage of certain emojis in October, but they were rejected by the courts in February. Still, Sony has remained dedicated to the project, announcing at CinemaCon just a couple of months ago that it was gearing up to tell the story of the emoji in Emoji Valley.

Recently, Sony teamed up with a third-party licensing firm called Plus Licens, which has The Emoji Movie listed on its site as a project the company was working on, but there weren't any additional details provided.

Polygon has reached out to Sony for comment. For now, The Emoji Movie is expected to be released in summer 2017.