Digital IP lawyer Frederick Mostert co-creates new international Unicode troll emoji

16 May 2022 , 3:25am

'Happenstance' query led to long but fascinating process to create a worldwide icon, reports Anne Gallagher

King’s College professor and digital IP lawyer Frederick Mostert has added a new accomplishment to his portfolio: Troll emoji co-creator. 

In an interview, Mostert said his new creation came about quite by happenstance. He asked Silicon Valley computer scientist friend Mark Davis to provide a lecture to his King’s College students on how emoji are created. Davis co-founded the Unicode project and has been the president of the Unicode Consortium since its incorporation in 1991.  Unicode issues and controls the nearly 4,000 emojis globally.

“The lecture was fascinating and of course I asked Mark who could apply for an emoji,” said Mostert. “Mark said that anyone can apply for an emoji but that there are strict acceptance rules. A vast number of applications are submitted every year; very few are accepted.”

The Unicode emoji subcommittee’s selection criteria include such things as whether the image will work at the small size at which emoji are commonly used, if an idea can be expressed using existing emoji, and if there is substantial evidence that a large number of people will likely use the new emoji.

Mostert had several reasons for choosing a troll for his submission. As an IP expert, Mostert was familiar with patent and trademark trolls. But he also said he had a lifelong fascination with Nordic countries and legends, including the Norwegian movie Troll Hunters. Mostert also thought a troll image could work at another level, that of ‘trolling people,’ in media and social media.  

Mostert submitted an application for a Troll emoji. “It’s a long process,” he said. “We went through different rounds of approval and refinement from the committee over two years.” But in November 2021, he received the good news that the troll emoji had been approved.  

“Because we text and email so much, we lose the expressions you see with body language. In our written world, emojis are a form of body language to help us.  We get so much context from in-person interactions that we simply don’t in our online world,” he explained.

Over the course of his career, Mostert has held any number of important positions including serving as chief intellectual property counsel and chief legal counsel of Richemont, the luxury brand which includes Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Alfred Dunhill and Chloe. Yet his friends joke that his legacy will be that of a troll emoji creator.

“There is no commercial benefit to having an emoji.  Whatever you develop, write and design is granted to Unicode.  An emoji is one of the few things in this world that is truly open source and global,” Mostert explained.

View the Troll emoji in the "Recently Added" list here: https://unicode.org/emoji/charts/emoji-released.html. Scroll down to #21.   

Currently serving as president of the Luxury Law Alliance, Mostert is a professor of practice at The Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College and a research fellow at the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre, University of Oxford. He was inducted into the Intellectual Property Hall of Fame in 2015, which honours those who have helped to establish intellectual property as one of the key business assets of the 21st century. Mostert is a founder of the Digital Scholarship Institute and the Digital Communities Lab (London).