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Brands in the metaverse – Is action needed?

Metaverse is the term for activities in which people connect through virtual worlds rather than a traditional social network. They do so using virtual glasses, helmets and haptic gloves. Increasingly, brands are part of these virtual worlds. Then protection of those brands also comes into play.

Actually, there is not one metaverse but several metaverses. Currently, an estimated 10,000 metaverses are being developed by a large number of teams and private companies. Besides gaming applications, the highest growth rates in the metaverse are in traditional commerce, e-commerce and digital assets. Analysts predict that metaverses will represent revenues of $191 billion by 2030.

Virtual and replaceable

Existing trademark registrations of goods and services from the “real” world do not cover their digital use. It is therefore important to apply for registration specifically for digital use. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) is receiving more and more trademark applications for this purpose. Here a distinction is made between virtual goods or services and non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”). The latter are unique digital certificates with which the owner of a digital object can prove his ownership.

‘Virtual goods’ are considered digital content or images by the EUIPO. EUIPO classifies virtual goods and NFTs in protection class 9. The corresponding virtual services, such as online trading of downloadable digital content or virtual goods authenticated by NFTs, fall into class 35. Well-known names such as Apple, Amazon, BMW, Burberry, Deutsche Telekom, Gucci and Heineken have already applied for protection of their trademark rights in these classes.

Effective barrier

Trademark protection in the metaverse aims to better enforce one’s own rights and provides an effective barrier to third parties. Lifestyle brand Hermès, for example, won a trademark infringement case in the U.S. against artist Mason Rothschild. He offered NFT versions of the famous Birkin handbag as “Metabirkins” in the metaverse.

Metaverse brand strategy

Are you yourself not yet active in the metaverse? Then you can license your trademark rights for the virtual space to third parties. Furthermore, by having trademarks registered in protection classes 9 and 35, you send a signal that you want to become active in the metaverse in the future.

It is also advisable to extend the monitoring of one’s own trademark to protection classes 9 and 35 in order to be aware at an early stage of potentially infringing activities of third parties in the virtual world.

With a customized metaverse brand strategy, you can prepare. V.O. can help you do just that.

A contribution of

Portretfoto van Noëlle Wolfs

Noëlle Wolfs

  • European and Benelux Trademark and Design Attorney
  • Senior Associate

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