Scepticism aside, the truth is that there is an increasing number of people entering the three-dimensional virtual space that we call the Metaverse.
So, what is the Metaverse that we have been talking about so much in recent times? The word Metaverse – meta (transcendence) + (uni)verse – was coined by Neal Stephenson in 1993 and refers to a vast virtual space, which connects people and businesses between the physical and digital worlds, enabling them to control their own identity, data, assets and products, through interactions with technologies such as blockchain, 5G and, of course, Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In this article, we will analyse how the protection of Intellectual Property (IP) is applied in the virtual world and how it will be possible to guarantee its effective protection.
The first challenge relates to the fact that the majority of IP rights are territorially limited. Therefore, companies that wish to invest in the virtual world should start by analysing their portfolio of (registered and unregistered) IP rights, in order to assess the need to extend the protection of their rights according to the (current and future) use that they intend to make in the Metaverse.
It is necessary to take into consideration the characteristics of the main IP rights and the challenges posed by the defence of these rights in the Metaverse.
Copyright: The advantage of this type of right is that its protection exists without the need for registration, in addition to the fact that it enjoys broad protection at territorial level. However, considering that copyright can easily be infringed online, it is generally difficult to identify the infringer. A further specific problem is related to NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), given that anyone can convert a work protected by copyright into an NFT, which gives rise to a conflict between the rights of the original author of the work and those of the creator of the NFT in the Metaverse.
Trademarks: This is a useful tool for protecting virtual goods and services. Nevertheless, it is necessary to guarantee that the trademark registration includes virtual use and use in the Metaverse, i.e. a trademark should also protect the digital equivalent of physical goods. For example, McDonalds has registered its trademark for virtual restaurants which provide home delivery.
Patents: If patentable technologies are created in the Metaverse, it is advisable to guarantee their protection. Patents in the Metaverse must comply with the same basic requirements of patentability as physical products, namely novelty, inventive step and industrial application. One of the problems of these inventions in the virtual world is knowing who is the inventor.
In view of these questions, if your company is preparing to expand into the Metaverse, you should first of all seek advice, so as to guarantee that your current and future intellectual property rights are adequately protected.