The metaverse does not exist yet but there is already a race to register trademarks

The metaverse, as such, is far from being a reality. As Carme Artigas, Secretary of State for Artificial Intelligence, says, “it’s just a name, an expectation, a marketing operation, something that doesn’t exist technologically, but that can already be seen as a trend.” As an advertising hook, on the other hand, it is something that is hitting hard among large companies, which want to ensure their place in that virtual space if it becomes consolidated. And that no one copies them without paying.

When users reach the metaverse, there will already be McDonalds hamburgers there. And McCafes. Its parent company has registered these and 9 other trademarks of its property to “sell virtual food and drinks and serve as a meeting point, among other functions”, collects a joint report from the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office and the Association for the Defense of the Brand presented this Thursday.

McDonalds is not alone in this race. As envisioned by digital industry tycoons like Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse will be a kind of evolution of today’s Internet based on virtual reality technologies. A network of connected digital worlds that offer an immersive experience to users, who will go through them through avatars. A golden opportunity for brands, which can sell themselves in their most radical concept: charging for the digital image of their products without delivering anything that implies a production cost in return.

The ones that have seen the opportunity the fastest have been the clothing firms. If there are avatars in the metaverse, they trust that many people will pay to wear them in designer clothes. Nike, in addition to its clothing, has made registration requests for trading cards, training software and other digital content. Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Abercrombie or Victoria’s Secret have done the same with their brands and also with their stores, to create exact replicas of them. The L’Oreal group has up to 17 registration applications.

The US Patent and Trademark Office is giving companies a wide berth to register parcels of the unborn metaverse and then promote it in physical reality. Disney, for example, “invented a simulator of virtual worlds to apply to the real world, through augmented reality and has stated its intention to create a theme park in the metaverse”, includes the report from the Spanish office, which analyzes the benefits and risks implied by artificial intelligence technologies in the defense of industrial property.

Many of the metaverse trademark filings being made by these multinationals are based on NFTs. This technology allows to certify the ownership of a digital device through its registration in the blockchain networks. It is a development that is deeply connected to the development of the metaverse and its commercial interest, since it allows the conversion into scarce digital goods that could otherwise be replicated ad infinitum.

“We find an increase in the demand for unique and exclusive collections, users want to differentiate themselves from the rest and want special products”, said Coral Navarro, an analyst at ClarkeModet, the largest industrial and intellectual property group in the world, during the presentation of the study. Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, which has given Coca-Cola as an example.

“Coca-Cola launched this year a campaign for a drink called “Byte”. With Byte, what they wanted to say is that the first flavored product had been created within virtual worlds and be acquired through NFT,” Navarro explained. It was “pixel flavored” and had a limited edition in the real world. “This was coupled with a huge marketing campaign that then led to consecutive sales of Coca-Cola products in the real world,” he has said.

Brands are filling the obvious regulatory void around a metaverse that does not yet exist with the laws of the physical world. Specifically, they are based on the Nice International Classification (of 1957). “They intend to obtain protection for commercial transactions that occur in this new virtual space and ensure ownership of new services that did not exist before,” the report states.

What these records seek to avoid is what happened with Hermes, which has starred in one of the first complaints for violation of intellectual property related to this new technology. He sued digital artist Mason Rothschild for marketing an NFT that closely resembled one of his bags. Among his claims, he demands that Rothschild destroy the NFT, something that is not possible since his record will be forever embodied in the Ethereum blockchain network while it is active.

The Hermes case “opens the debate on whether companies will need to register new trademarks specifically for virtual goods, or if those referring to the real-world objects on which they are based are enough,” highlights the study by the Patent Office. “Certain legal gaps are beginning to emerge that will be resolved as this technology is incorporated into society,” they acknowledge.

In any case, the tone of the report regarding the impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property is positive. The institutions believe that the potential of this technology to review large amounts of information in search of possible infractions compensates for the potential problems that may arise before a regulation is consolidated.

The metaverse, a term that became popular when Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook’s parent company to “Meta” to mark his commitment to this technology, is still no more than a development concept. Next October Meta will present its advances in this field and a new generation of virtual reality glasses, which could give details on how close or far it is to the launch of a commercial service that comes close to its idea of ​​​​a metaverse.

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