Intellectual Property in the Metaverse
Intellectual Property (IP) owners should think of the metaverse as an opportunity. Like the opportunity the Internet brought to sell goods and services online instead of exclusively in brick-and-mortar stores, the metaverse brings a new opportunity for businesses to expand their reach. Nike and Gucci are two examples of companies already taking advantage of entering the metaverse by selling virtual shoes and handbags through virtual programs such as Fortnite and Roblox. Roblox gamers can shop at the virtual Gucci Gardens and purchase virtual-only Gucci handbags, sunglasses, or hats for their avatars. These virtual products can then be traded and resold within Roblox — one bag resold for over $4,000 worth of Roblox.
Businesses with tangible expressions of their IP, such as Nike shoes and Gucci handbags, can build a metaverse around their brand. Businesses with non-product IP also can take advantage of the metaverse. Licensing patents or copyrighted code, consulting in marketing and advertising, hosting metaverse infrastructure, and many more options exist for all IP owners and businesses. The key is to create a system in which your business is either creating or supporting a user-driven design that engages and fully immerses your target audience in a digital experience.
As you create these immersive experiences covering the far reaches of the imagination, you must build the metaverse into your IP protection strategy. The expansion of the metaverse will only expand the opportunity for copying and improper use. A new world is being born, is your IP protected there too? Nike recently filed for trademarks covering “virtual goods” for use in “virtual environments.” They recently acquired the leading digital apparel player, RTFKT, which has a hybrid NFT/physical shoe collection inspired by CryptoPunks. Nike even holds patents over tokenized shoes.
You can’t afford to ignore this movement. Start asking yourself these questions:
· Are your trademarks protected?
· Do you have systems in place to monitor the use of your code and other patented technologies in a virtual world?
· Do you need to amend your licensing agreements or terms and conditions to recognize unauthorized use in a new way?
· What products or services could you move into the metaverse?
Remember, your IP rights grant you a monopoly over your technology, marks, and works of art. The metaverse will only expand the value of your IP. Even though the full metaverse is estimated to be ten years away, those who are not actively preparing will be left behind and left vulnerable.
Now is the time to prepare.