Developments in technology often create risks for brand owners, and the metaverse will be no exception. In a similar way to the development of online marketplaces, the metaverse will provide a new means though which rights can be infringed. The unscrupulous could set up shop selling counterfeit virtual goods for their own gain. Avatars could be walking the streets in worlds such as Second Life, wearing goods that have been sold to them without permission from the IP owner.
This type of thing can be a difficult battle in the real-world and the virtual world of the metaverse creates more questions, some of which are yet to be tested and it may take some time before we see the full extent. It’s now even more important, to make sure your IP provides protection in both worlds. Trade marks provide the ability to stop unauthorised use, but a mark protected across Europe may not prevent it being used by a business in China for virtual goods and sold to an avatar operating in the metaverse from the United States. Under the current law, the European marks could only be used to stop unauthorised use targeted at consumers in Europe.
Existing trade mark protection may be robust enough for goods and services in the real world, but it’s possible that it won’t prove as tough in the metaverse which is why brand owners are looking to future proof their IP. When super brand Nike teamed up with gaming platform Roblox, they were savvy enough to obtain new trade marks for the Nike name, the swoosh logo and the name Nikeland that specifically covered virtual goods and services.
Thought should also be given to the terms of any license agreement: does the licensee have rights to operate in the metaverse or only the real world? Nike’s trade mark protection ensured that Roblox required a license to use the brand within the platform and the agreement resulted in a significant win for both companies.
As the metaverse continues to grow and develop it’s important that brand owners be proactive in ensuring their portfolio is adequately protected and that they monitor the metaverse for unauthorised use. This approach will allow for early identification of infringement and help to minimise long term damage.
The metaverse is exciting, but it’s also risky… so expert advice for this brave new world is essential!