Metaverse tokens and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are popular buzzwords these days. Many brands, such as Nike®, Victoria Secret®, and TaylorMade®, are rushing to make claims about Metaverse’s “goods” as well as NFTs. Why are they doing so, and why is it important to protect your intellectual property related to the Metaverse and NFTs?
Let’s start with a brief description of the Metaverse and NFTs. Metaverse usually refers to an immersive digital world where users can interact with different spaces, people, and things using digital avatars. There is no generally accepted space considered a metaverse, and some companies are trying to establish their own space on platforms such as Roblox®. However, in such a digital world, various digital goods are sold. Imagine buying sneakers and clothes for your avatar in the Metaverse. Imagine buying a car for that avatar. These items are not physical items, but can represent the same items found on the regular market. Therefore, companies like Nike® are trying to protect the intellectual property associated with digital goods (and services) sold in the Metaverse.
NFTs may refer to those same digital products or specific products. However, NFTs are data stored on the blockchain (digital ledgers such as Ethereum®) that authenticate and track their digital properties. NFT is “irreplaceable”. That is, NFTs are unique and cannot be replaced by anything else. Therefore, NFTs can refer to one of a digital art piece or link to a physical product to help prove the credibility or ownership of that product.
Many companies have existing trademark registrations for their products and services, so why are the trademarks specific to Metaverse and NFTs important? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (and other Trademark Offices around the world) classifies goods and services into the specific international “class” in which a trademark is classified. For example, shoes and clothing are class 25, jewelery is class 14, and retail service is class 35. Most of these products and services in the “traditional” class are Metaverse or NFTs (USPTOs are specifically classified into classes 9 and 41). As a result, it is important to consider filing a trademark application related to the appropriate class of goods / services.
It can be argued that the existing trademark registration of physical goods may cover these digital goods in the Metaverse, but currently there is no law or case law governing it. A number of newly filed proceedings, including a proceeding against Mason Rothschild for creating, selling and using “MetaBirkin” (Hermes claims to infringe the trademark of the Birkin® bag). There are, but these proceedings have not yet been filed. Asked by the court. Therefore, if the company is considering extending to the Metaverse or NFT, it is worth considering filing a related trademark to enhance protection.
Think of the intellectual property that surrounds NFTs as a work of art. You can own a copy, but you do not own the underlying intellectual property unless otherwise agreed. Many of the NFTs currently on sale, such as ape images, human images, and avatars, are considered art. Unless otherwise agreed, the NFT will not grant ownership of the author’s intellectual property rights. Also, owning an NFT does not mean that you are free to make derivatives or duplicates. Therefore, NFT authors should consider filing an artwork copyright application (and perhaps a trademark) and consider creating specific contracts that cover in-sale and post-sale intellectual property rights. there is. Conversely, NFT buyers should consider checking their rights at the time of purchase or prior to purchase to determine exactly what they are actually getting.
Metaverse and NFTs represent a new expansion of intellectual property, and if a company is considering entering the field, it should consider protecting the intellectual property associated with this new landscape.