The metaverse isn’t just for gamers anymore.
With the rise of block-chain technology, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—along with the increasingly realistic-looking realms created in virtual and augmented reality—these three-dimensional realms, best known for games like Fortnite and Roblox, are increasingly becoming a place to do business.
Although consumers have become accustomed to both interacting on social media and purchasing goods and service via e-commerce, the metaverse combines the two into an immersive digital world that feels more tangible, providing the ability to “visit” retail outlets and purveyors of services (including law firms).
Visitors to businesses can literally “walk down the street” in their browser or virtual reality equipment and enter through the virtual front door. In addition to the goods and services for sale, the metaverse provides the opportunity to build relationships and communities. This will become all the more common as young gamers on Fortnite and other online realities enter adulthood as what you might call “metaverse natives.”
Block-chain technology allows for the accounting of virtual transactions to be recorded and preserved, including those using virtual currencies as well as those that involve virtual products like NFTs, which are digital items such as “designer clothing” for one’s avatars to wear.
Establishing intellectual property within the metaverse requires the creation of “smart contracts” that have terms of agreement established in code, which become active automatically under certain pre-defined conditions.
Embedding smart contracts within NFTs themselves will help to establish and track metaverse assets and digital items as they are traded among participants, or between digital universes, salting into place the related intellectual property rights and ownership.
Businesses should take care to protect their brands and trademarks in the metaverse, just as they would in the physical universe, so that unauthorized third-parties cannot created check knockoffs or even apply for trademark use in the metaverse. That typically is more likely to happen with well-known and higher-end brands, but small businesses still probably can’t be too careful.
This can mean—and has meant—that brands are working proactively to file for their own trademarks within the metaverse, the same as they did when social media first came into being. The complexities of the digital universe will require intelligent, thoughtful planning. The sooner your business gets boots on the virtual ground, the more likely you are to open up new actual lines of business. But you will need to protect them from intellectual property theft, just as in physical reality.
If you’re skeptical about the potential growth of the metaverse, ask your favorite teen what they think. You may decide this isn’t child’s play, after all.
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