The metaverse is not yet in existence, but it seems its moment is almost here.
Many businesses are probably wondering what exactly the metaverse is going to be while preparing to take advantage of its opportunities and deal with the challenges of this new virtual world.
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As it evolves, issues of intellectual property enforcement are expected to become more significant and so is the need for online brand protection.
What is the Metaverse
Still taking shape, the idea is that the metaverse is a virtual world.
It includes digital experiences that are virtual, immersive, and three-dimensional (3D) where users can experience, connect and interact with each other and other elements in the virtual reality and the physical world.
This new frontier is expected to incorporate augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 3D spaces with holographic avatars and other features that allow people to “be”, experience and interact with others in real-time.
The metaverse is a concept of immersive virtual space. It is not a one, connected world.
Various entities can create virtual worlds, each with access, rights, formats, and monetization that are likely to vary.
The metaverse offers exciting opportunities. A successful metaverse presence may increase brand loyalty and sales of both real-world and digital goods.
We expect to have virtual commerce or v-commerce: a unique e-commerce experience where consumers can have an immersive shopping experience, such as through the help of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.
Examples include a virtual reality marketplace with virtual retail stores and augmented reality applications such as virtual reality fitting rooms.
Businesses can also promote themselves through virtual billboards, virtual events, virtual training with branded content and sponsorships, digital products and more.
The virtual space can also offer business applications, such as collaboration environments and mixed reality experiences.
Digital assets are already here, mainly in the form of cryptocurrencies and NFTs that are virtual creations (read more on NFTs here: NFTs and Intellectual Property Protection).
More virtual goods are next, and other assets such as virtual stores (with physical goods, virtual goods or a mix).
Some entertainment and gaming companies are already creating immersive worlds that can be monetized, such as Roblox. Early-movers offer exclusively virtual clothing lines using NFT technology, experimenting with new online possibilities.
Brands in the metaverse
According to what we now know, the metaverse will be a digital creation that impacts intellectual property rights in the real world.
It will have both social experiences and retail and is likely to create a new market for products and services. Even now it provides brands with opportunities to reach consumers and increase brand awareness in new ways.
Already, brands view the digital world as a space to promote their products, and so they seek to establish themselves there and apply intellectual property rights.
One way that brands are currently exploring is offering limited editions of digital versions of goods through games and marketplaces, often in collaboration with online platforms:
The National Football League (NFL) has opened a virtual store on the popular Roblox, selling virtual items.
Louis Vuitton launched Louis the Game. As you play, you can collect items, dress your character in Louis Vuitton prints and find embedded NFTs.
Gucci has released a virtual sneaker that can be worn only in digital environments, in collaboration with Wanna.
It was reported that the virtual shoes can be purchased in either company’s mobile app for $9-$12. After the purchase, you can download a version of the shoe for your avatar to wear on a virtual reality platform such as Roblox.
The fashion brand also collaborates with Roblox to allow players a chance to win a limited digital version of the Gucci bag.
Another example is the first-ever metaverse fashion week scheduled to take place this month (March 2022).
The virtual event will introduce runway presentations, viewers, and purchase opportunities of virtual clothing and fashion items for online avatars by brands like D&G and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as digital fashion brands.
Online brand protection in the metaverse
As more brands start offering digital items, trademark infringements and counterfeits are likely to follow.
The metaverse is likely to have implications that may be difficult to regulate and protect, at least initially.
Although we cannot yet predict what brand infringements we are likely to see, brands may have to find ways to not only operate but protect their intellectual property rights and assets in digital spaces.
Meta trademark rights
Existing brand names are likely to be used in the metaverse by authentic brands or by illicit players.
This is the reason some brands are already filing trademark applications for virtual goods that mirror their trademarks in physical products, although existing trademarks may apply to similar digital goods and services.
When brand owners file separate applications for existing trademarks that are targeted to protect virtual goods and services, they seek to strengthen the protection of their rights in virtual marketplaces.
The specific virtual applications can also enable brands to expand and strengthen their presence in new virtual markets.
Early ventures into the digital space may provide brands with better protection against unauthorized uses of their marks that amount to trademark infringements.
Early trademark applications for the metaverse
We already see brand owners filing to register their trademarks for goods and services that exist exclusively in the digital space.
This includes “downloadable virtual goods” created for virtual worlds, retail stores services that sell virtual goods, and other things for use in virtual environments.
Some recent examples of applications for brand protection in the metaverse include the following:
- Nike engaged early and filed trademark applications for virtual goods and for building virtual environments to sell those goods. CNBC reported that the company filed trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), for Nike’s logo, NIKE, the Just Do It slogan, its swoosh logo and others. Nike has also created Nikeland on Roblox, as it announced at the end of 2021.
- Panera Bread filed an application for PANERAVERSE, covering virtual goods, namely, food and beverages for use in virtual worlds.
- Walmart’s application for WALMART seeks to cover online retail store services featuring virtual goods.
- Crocs filed an application for CROCS intended to cover, among other things, virtual goods in the nature of footwear, clothing bags, accessories and charms for decorating footwear, clothing, bags and accessories.
- Converse has filed trademark applications for virtual goods and services for its famous marks.
Other brands have also filed, such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Tahari, Justice, Hurley, Urban Outfitters, Bobbi Brown, as well as the South Korean musical group BTS and many others.
We are already starting to see applications filed by third-parties unaffiliated with the “real world” brands.
Brand infringement lawsuit
The first brand protection lawsuits are also being filed.
Recently, Hermès has filed a lawsuit against the individual behind the collection of 100 MetaBirkins NFTs.
MetaBirkins are images of furry shapes of the Birkin bag, using the fashion company’s famous mark with a prefix. The lawsuit is grounded in existing trademark registrations rather than trademarks specific to the metaverse. The creator published a letter defending his right to create art.
It will be interesting to follow the case that focuses on branded NFTs from the perspective of trademark infringement and brand dilution.
As for the prefix “meta”, Hermès claims it is generic.
Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta and announced its intention to create a virtual world known as the “metaverse.”
Another way to look at this word is not as generic but as a word that may create trademark and copyright challenges for companies that will try to promote trademarks with words such as “meta” and “metaverse”.
Wiser Market Online Brand Protection
The metaverse offers both opportunities and challenges for brands, sellers, and providers to engage with global audiences, monetize their intellectual property assets in the metaverse, and increase brand loyalty with virtual goods and services.
Both established brands and start-ups are likely to be active in the metaverse and navigate this new space as it evolves.
We expect that it will become increasingly important to have trademark protection in digital worlds and protect virtual goods and services against infringements.
Wiser Market is your partner in combatting online infringements and protecting your sales and reputation.
We provide an all-around solution to protect your assets online and stay one step ahead of the latest trends and threats.
At Wiser Market, we believe in a proactive online protection strategy.
Our superb brand protection services, from detection through analyzing to enforcing takedown actions, result in over a 90% success rate.
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What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is expected to be a virtual world that includes digital experiences that are virtual, immersive, and three-dimensional (3D).
The space will have digital representations of people, places, and things and incorporate virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D avatars, and more, often mirroring real life and creating virtual or mixed realities.
What is the difference between virtual commerce and social commerce?
Social commerce refers to a type of e-commerce where users purchase products and services directly from social experiences. As we’ve already discussed, social commerce is here and it is growing (see more here: Social Commerce is the New E-Commerce).
Virtual commerce is a term that still has more than one possible definition. It often refers to a type of e-commerce where users purchase products and services through virtual reality.