Metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs): what they mean for IP

The metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) trends are increasingly driving trademark filing activity. These virtual world developments continue to impact how Intellectual Property (IP) is created, managed and protected. We discussed this topic in our recent IP Forum and continue the conversation here, which is the first of a three-part blog series.

We had the honor of hosting brand protection experts from NBCUniversal, Meta and Mary Innis Law Group at our recent annual IP Forum. We moderated the breakout session, “The Future of IP in the metaverse”, which truly embodied the forum’s theme of “Exploring new frontiers of IP”.

There is plenty of buzz, interest and growth potential in NFTs and the metaverse, as revealed in our latest trademark trends report, Traversing the evolving trademark landscape. So, as a group, we first sought to look beyond the hype and understand how IP ownership of these new virtual assets works today. Indeed, high-profile NFT related lawsuits such as Nike’s lawsuit against StockX and the legal action Miramax filed against Quentin Tarantino over Pulp Fiction NFT rights, provide a hint of the tussles to come over NFTs, IP and rightful ownership.

There were several other interesting takeaways from this session, which you can read below. You can also watch the full session from our IP Forum 2022 on demand.


Is today’s legal environment fit for purpose in the metaverse and non-fungible tokens world?

How can organizations best protect assets in the metaverse world and what will be used to protect them? Trademarks remain the primary method to protect these virtual assets; but this is complicated by the fact that virtual assets in the metaverse world could be images, video content, something that is not static, which makes it challenging to cover from a trademark perspective. The jury is still out on whether the trademark approach will continue as the dominant approach or perhaps more will consider turning to other forms, such as copyrights.


Ensuring laws, legal and governance structures are metaverse ready

Certain Nice Classes, particularly Class 9, are already seeing a tremendous surge in filing numbers, driven by accelerating interest and opportunities in the virtual world. In the metaverse world, nothing has just one function or one source identifier, so therefore will not fit neatly into any current existing category.


Finite resources versus the infinite internet

Our experts also highlighted one of the biggest challenges confronting brand protection practitioners and brand attorneys that the virtual world brings – time and resources are finite whereas the internet, with the addition of the metaverse, is infinite. This in turn means that monitoring and enforcement such as doing takedowns will only get tougher as the virtual world continues to iterate and mature. In this new virtual world, platforms and individual rights owners may consider partnering to put in place some sort of mechanism on the front end so that brand holders are protected.


Stay connected

This post is the first in our three-part blog series about the IP Forum. Up next we have blogs about IP and R&D partnerships being key to empowering innovation, followed by the evolving demands on IP professionals. Stay tuned for more updates and make sure you watch the full session from our IP Forum 2022 on demand.

Interested in learning more about how Clarivate can accelerate IP strategies? Talk to an expert today.


About the author
Brian J. King coordinates policy efforts across IP products at Clarivate, including trademarks, patents, case law and domain names. He is an advocate for IP and internet policy that protects the rights and promotes the interests of IP owners globally. Brian has spent over a decade in many technical, legal, and business leadership roles with domain name registrars and IP companies, and is an IP subject matter expert on the Corporate Strategy team at Clarivate. He also serves on the International Trademark Association (INTA) Data Protection Committee and is Vice President of ICANN’s IP Constituency.