The Metaverse of Intellectual Property

Metaverses are “virtual worlds” that make an effort to reproduce reality on digital devices – be they computers connected to a network or virtual reality or augmented reality equipment offering immersive experiences. A metaverse is a collective and shared virtual space that is inhabited by the avatars of users; before, this was only common in science fiction and multiplayer online video games.

By combining new technologies – including blockchain and artificial intelligence –, metaverses are being increasingly populated by unique avatars; the latter can be customized, and even use or own unique virtual objects. However, the legal implications of fully developed metaverses must still be carefully scrutinized.

It’s not easy to police copyright, trademark rights or any other rights within metaverses, and this makes piracy, counterfeiting and misuse of works of art, products, brands and designs sometimes as difficult to prevent as in the real world.

Trademark registrations will be impacted, since protection in the digital environment will be necessary, expanding portfolios. Intellectual property rights license agreements will also be impacted, since they don’t currently provide for use or sale of works and products in this new environment. Another common implication is that metaverses are globally applicable and have no established territory, while intellectual property rights’ records are restricted to a country’s territory.

None of this has prevented showbiz celebrities and other artists from occupying metaverses. On November 18, 2021, Justin Bieber – or rather, Justin Bieber's digital avatar, on the platform – presented his first live show in a metaverse; his fans were able to enjoy the show up close, in an immersive environment, which changed from song to song, with no physical limitations whatsoever.

Previously, in 2019 and 2020, DJs Marshmello and Travis Scott performed virtually via video game Fortnite. Altogether, more than 24 million players attended the shows, while interacting with the environment alongside other players. At Ariana Grande's Rift Tour, however, the experience was taken to another level, leading 27.7 million players to actively interact through minigames. After the shows, the performers’ avatars were sold at the Fortnite virtual store.

We cannot ignore, also, that this revolution is not limited to the so-called consumer metaverses, which present the latter with new products and experiences such as collectibles, games and shows. It has brought us the concept of an industrial metaverse too – corporate metaverses focused on creating value in production processes such as product safety tests, workshops, training and virtual meetings. Progress of the economy in this direction is easily observable, considering that metaverses offer intrinsic advantages such as the definitive abolition of spatial limitations through immersive interaction in real time, and also generate a virtuous cycle in which what is real takes advantage of what is virtual, using simulations to make production processes more modern and efficient by applying knowledge gained virtually.

As we mentioned before, all this is happening despite the slow development of legislation, which never keeps pace with new technologies. More often than not, we cannot find clear solutions within laws and jurisprudence. Thus, quality legal services are essential to whoever intends to use new technologies to generate value. While metaverses can present intellectual property risks, they can also offer innovative solutions and provide new experiences, goods and services, with higher quality and greater security.

At BTLAW, we strive to meet our clients’ needs by offering legal services that are innovative and sensitive to emerging markets, often from an entrepreneurial perspective and constantly keeping adequate risk prevention and management in mind. For more information concerning our services and how we can help you, please contact our intellectual property team!