THE ROLE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP) IN THE METAVERSE
In a wider scope, the metaverse can be explained as an immersive online experience that utilizes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology and devices, theoretically, a world of unlimited imagination that will take over from the internet.
Resently , the metaverse has gained a higher profile because major tech companies, such as “Meta” formerly Facebook and Microsoft, having announced their plans to develop new metaverse platforms for both entertainment and working purposes. The industries most likely to experience an immediate impact from the metaverse are entertainment, gaming, education, and finance. In addition, cryptocurrencies are likely to be used heavily in the metaverse ecosystem, providing a boost to that already rapidly expanding industry.
For anyone interested in the metaverse, it‘s necessary to understand the intellectual property rights (IPRs) associated with the digital components that comprise it.
Metaverse ownership will likely be multi-faceted and dependent on which metaverse platform you enter and interact with. Ownership may function similarly to how social media platforms are owned.
Programs and devices related to the metaverse will be developed, patented, and highly litigated. Inventors will face legal issues over patentable subject matter and race to be the first to create novel, useful, and non-obvious metaverse inventions. Inventive programs, interactive tools, or methods of interacting with the metaverse will amplify the operability and/or experience of a new virtual universe.
Metaverse assets/digital item ownership is important to a user’s experience and interaction. Users can do just about anything with an NFT in a virtual world, including creating avatars to wear designer clothing, hanging paintings in their digital house, buying horses to race, or creating their own item for a virtual environment.
As a business, it is crucial to protect your brand and trademarks in the metaverse as more NFTs are created for users, as metaverse development will be rampant and complex as more companies invest into the development of this digital universe. Thoughtful and intelligent planning is needed when it comes to intellectual property rights, which will guide how the metaverse is created, how users interact with it, and how brands will conduct business.
All these brings us to one question
What will be the role of intellectual property in the metaverse?
- TRADE MARKS
One of the greatest commercial appeals of the metaverse is the opportunity for brands to step into the driving seat and engage directly with consumers and at a lower cost. Brands will see this opportunity to engage with customers in innovative new ways, whether these are fashion labels looking to provide branded digital clothing or, perhaps, drinks brands looking to establish their brand as a health replenishing elixir for players within the metaverse.
Trade marks serve as an important commercial asset but also as a valuable tool that can protect a business. This is even more relevant in the online landscape where protection has always been a challenge for brand owners given the territorial scope of trade marks and the global perspective of the internet. While the metaverse is proclaimed to be a new frontier, many of the existing laws we have can be reapplied to the new context.
Also, If trade marks are commercially exploited through profitable transactions within the metaverse then it is highly likely that such activity would be evidence of use. However, it may be challenging to show that this use occurred in the relevant territory covered by the representing trade mark.
- THE DIGITAL COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE .
As we all know, the metaverse creates multiple opportunities that may result in works of authorship such as virtual concerts, museum visits or fashion shows. For copyright owners, the metaverse presents endless potential for new sources of revenue. However, it is clear that copyright within the metaverse is going to have a complicated relationship through recent reforms and case law. The aim of this provision is to allow for fairer remuneration of authors and performers where their works are more commercially successful than anticipated. At first glance, assuming that the relevant contracts will include terms around copyright, there is no reason to suggest that this provision should not be ported into a metaverse. Although it isn’t clear how such a provision will work in practice, the ability to claim royalties from subsequent sales of NFTs through smart contracts will potentially serve as a benefit for authors seeking to rely on this new legal right.
- COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT, PATENTS , LICENSING AND STANDARDS
As centralised metaverses expand and begin to interact with one another and as decentralised metaverses develop further, a key factor that must be considered is the potential interoperability of different software and systems.
At the centre of creating a vast, reliable and connected network lies one significant issue: compatible standards. When you think of the revolution in connectivity, you often think about the mobile telecommunications network. The telecoms industry has a vast and developed set of technical “standards” that allow devices from different manufacturers to work seamlessly with one another. If metaverses intend to be truly decentralised, or even allow for partial cross-over between different virtual spaces, it is crucial that the technologies they are built upon are compatible with one another. The development of a set of metaverse standards seems one natural way to aid the necessary interoperability.
The licensing of metaverse-related patents has the potential to generate revenue for developers, further aiding their individual growth, but this may stagnate growth as a whole by limiting the technological advances available to others. As an increasing number of patents are filed and granted, it could also become difficult for new entrants to the market to navigate the patent landscape, leading them to unknowingly infringe rights of others.
There are two directions in which IP in metaverse technology could develop.
- Firstly, key players in the market could create licensing pools containing their patents that are essential to a functioning metaverse and are commonly known as “standard-essential patents”. These patent pools would simplify the licensing process for developers of metaverse space and help to ensure interoperability is not prevented through the monopolies provided by patents.
- Secondly, open-source licensing models could be used, with technology released by developers on open-licence, royalty-free terms to prevent monopolies occurring and allow the further development of technology.
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