Last October two major events in the world of trademarks took place: the first was my article about distinguishing Beer from other alcoholic beverages according to the Trademark NICE Agreement classification system. The second, a bit more significant, was Facebook’s announcement as to re-branding itself as “Meta”.
Soon after, it was published that Meta’s re-branding move was part of creating a new digital virtual world known as “the Metaverse”, which, BTW, for some reason makes me think of “the Matrix” – no idea why.
The metaverse is a 3D virtual universe focused on social connections and though it is not a new concept (for example, Second Life did it already 20 years ago), it looks like it’s going to be a game changer in our everyday lives.
The new virtual social world will no doubt include many different virtual items to be purchased and used in the Metaverse such as virtual clothing, virtual consumer products, virtual jewelry and accessories, virtual hairdresser services, virtual food products, virtual cars and of course the very popular NFT(s) items. A paradise, not so very virtual, to merchants and brand-owners.
Going back to my main theme – trademarks and the Intellectual Property legal world: Even though seemingly, today the international trademark classification system covers also virtual goods and services, one can only wonder whether the obvious rising popularity of these items might initiate the need to form a new classification specifically for virtual goods and services.
Though the term “virtual” is frequently used to describe goods/services in today’s trademark laws, I am not sure how to categorize such virtual items in the Metaverse. Are “Virtual clothing”, for example, similar to “real” dresses/shoes/hats/etc. and thus categorized under class 25? Is it a software and thus categorized under class 9? or is it an entertainment service and thus categorized under class 41? The possibilities are wide, so no wonder Meta’s recent trademark applications filed in Israel (and I suspect in other territories) specify many items under several classes.
Another wild notion relates to the various implications of creating and operating the Metaverse in our 21st century digital environment. In such a world, will we witness the formation of a new intellectual property regime?
In the world of intellectual property, as it is today, we refer to 4 main groups of rights: Copyrights, Trademarks, Industrial Designs, and Patents. But in the Metaverse, there is no place, for example, to Industrial Designs that are intended to protect the shape of a product. According to Israeli copyright law, a product that can be registered as a Design, will not be given the protection of Copyright laws. How, then, will we protect the new stylized shoe we once protected by registering an Industrial Design, if it exists only in the Metaverse?
Can we consider it as a 2D Design (like a sticker) and register it as an Industrial Design? Can we determine that Copyright laws do apply since it is an illustration and not an actual product? Can we register the virtual shoe as a trademark? or will we have to consider a new approach and regard it similar to an NFT, and maybe create a “new” intellectual property right?
So many thrilling or horrifying questions – depending on how you look at it. I dare you to try to answer those…
*All information presented in the article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.