A Russian news agency says patent authorities deny a businessman's claim that he has trademarked a symbol used widely in email, text and instant messages.

Oleg Teterin said he had been granted a trademark for ;-) a grouping of punctuation marks that denotes a smiling wink when looked at sideways.

He said he expected corporations to pay thousands of dollars for a license to use the symbol.

The Rospatent federal patent agency tells the RIA-Novosti news agency that the symbol was trademarked only as part of the company's brand and has not been trademarked on its own.

Neither Teterin nor patent officials could be reached for comment.