In 2006 I designed a series of 3D smiley characters for an advertising agency.
After publishing the smileys on http://sevensheaven.nl I saw them hundreds of times in forums, as avatars, in blog posts, etcetera.
In 2009 an exact copy of one of the smileys was used without authorization for a campaign by a Dutch TV channel. My agent approached them, and after some initial defense by the company's lawyers they paid for a rightful license.
In 2011 an orange-colored variant of the smiley with its tongue sticking out was licensed to the Canadian amusement park Funhaven:
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