IP Insight: Enter the Metaverse
This is a series from IP specialists Virtuoso Legal covering key areas in online brand protection. This insight looks at how the metaverse is shaping up in theory and practice, and its impact on brands.
By Kostas Retzopoulos
Disclaimer: This insight should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.
In October 2021 Mark Zuckerberg announced that what until then was known to you and me as Facebook, was going to be renamed “Meta”. This “transformation” heralded the beginning of not just a rebranding but also a new virtual world, called the "Metaverse". And if the BBC’s prediction is accurate, according to their article published at the same time, it is “apparently, it's the next big thing.”
What is the "Metaverse"?
In reality, it is the new and advanced, 3D version of the Internet, still fully digital but also combining both virtual and augmented reality, thus allowing users to immerse themselves in online experiences. Have you got that?
By means of accessories such as state-of-the-art headsets (or gloves and many more gadgets to come!) we can step into an utterly virtual environment which simulates real-life and the experiences that come from it. The augmented reality bit is where you have a 2D image of a dinosaur, for example, in the middle of your living room, which you may have already probably seen or used with Google Chrome on your smartphone or other gadgets.
Key players in the metaverse arena are the likes of Decentraland, Sandbox and Roblox. It is merely a matter of time before more metaverse platforms show up, recruiting the participation of new and existing brands and eventually capturing the imagination of more and more users. If you are a fan of Sci-fi, Luc Besson’s 2017 film “Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets” will give you a very good idea of what the metaverse of the future would be like.
Not to mention the increasing number of fashion brands that have already embraced both the metaverse and Web3 identities (NFTs) by actively participating in virtual events; or even big names in the banking sector that are grabbing virtual land, already building their metaverse empire. It is anticipated that virtual land sales on some of the metaverse platforms will hit the $1bn mark in 2022.
Practical use and impact
Sci-fi fascination aside and ignoring (for now) the possibility of a close wet shave by a mechanical hand holding a sharp blade near your face, whilst being operated virtually by another user somewhere else in the metaverse, this new reality will change how we interact with brands; and consequently, what strategies brand owners will need to have in place to protect their brands in the metaverse.
Think for example the selling and buying of virtual goods to use for your avatar in the metaverse itself. Or, for that matter, instead of visiting a physical store on the high street, you can try before you buy any product in 3D before it’s delivered to you. Not to mention gaming, exercising, attending a class or a training session, “going to” a gig, watching a play or being “present” at an event extravaganza, all of which will soon be true fully immersive experiences.
Technology, as always, will shift the paradigm and as expected, it will impact the way businesses operate and plan, especially regarding their IP.
It is normal for brand owners and trade mark holders to question what it is they should be actively doing, in anticipation of life in the metaverse. There is certainly no reason to rush things. Now’s the time to evaluate this information we are afforded, think it through and plan ahead. The metaverse will definitely not just impact fashion and entertainment. Every business one way or another will enter it, thus changing the relationship with their customers and therefore the way brands are treated.
Our insight: brand protection options in reaction to Metaverse
- Should you consider expanding your trade marks? We are not sure how existing trade marks for physical goods and services will fair in the metaverse. One thing for sure is, however, that we have already seen new brands jumping the queue to enter the metaverse before they even exist “physically”; while at the same time existing brands are expanding their classes (e.g., adding Class 9) so that they are not caught unprepared.
- How about considering what new goods and services you may wish to offer in the metaverse? Again, which classes will need to represent them?
- Is my existing trade mark configuration metaverse-ready? What are the visual aspects of your brand that you should consider protecting the most? Maybe now’s the time to think of what sets your products apart and which new logos you may need for your big entrance to the metaverse before you open the door to exploitation by opportunists.
- Finally, what the T&Cs of your existing contracts like? Say you are going to sign a new deal that includes the licence or the transfer of IP to a licensee. Will the existing terms and conditions be tight or broad enough to protect how your IP is handled in the metaverse? Or should do you need to think amending them to facilitate an easy transition for use in the metaverse?
One thing is sure: the same way brands have been exploited on the internet, will be exploited in the vastness of the metaverse. As such, your brand reputation will remain your No.1 goal on the metaverse and the way to do it is to always strengthen your IP.
I would like to say that at Virtuoso Legal we have seen it all. If you want to find out more about the metaverse, how you can protect your brand and IP on and offline or have any questions about the future of your trade marks, get in touch. As a matter of fact, we have already helped brand owners get ready to transition, so we are more than happy to help you as well!
ABOUT VIRTUOSO LEGAL
Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.