IP Law in the Metaverse

Creation and transfer of rights including by Web3 (blockchain) technologies

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    “The metaverse” is envisioned as a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space where humans experience life in ways they could not in the physical world. At the present, the term “metaverse” is often used to refer to virtual worlds, including massively multiplayer online games and a social network platform in which real-time, real-world business transactions are conducted by users represented through digital avatars and voices. These current offerings do not yet fulfill the metaverse vision of interoperable virtual worlds, where users can move between different systems while taking their identity and virtual property with them. Whether a “true” metaverse will be sustained in the future, enormous value is already being created and transacted in “proto-metaverses” involving intellectual property and related rights. Users in existing virtual worlds, such as real-world simulation Second Life, have been able to buy, sell, and trade digital entities such as avatars, digital fashion, tools, commodities, and virtual real estate for virtual and real-world currency. However, the service provider generally (through terms of use) is the holder of real-world rights over its virtual world.

    Widely proposed for enabling transactions across virtual worlds are Web3 technologies, based on blockchain ledgers that disseminate transaction data via peer-to-peer networks as a subset of the Internet. Involving billions of dollars in commerce, Web3 technologies include digital assets such as cryptocurrencies (fungible tokens) and nonfungible tokens (NFTs) that authenticate ownership of other assets, ranging from digital art to rights in tangible art to interests in corporate entities or in real property. These tokens are minted and traded on various blockchains and coordinated in bridges with other blockchains and exchanges for real, “fiat” currency. The persistence (immutability) of and decentralized interaction with these blockchains make them models for effecting and recording transactions between interconnected virtual worlds.

    As the boundaries between virtual and physical realities blur, the question of who owns what in the digital realm becomes paramount. It involves consideration of traditional intellectual property rights such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but also other proprietary claims arising from contract rights and privacy rights under data protection laws. It also includes consideration of the interplay of these interests with various components and layers of Web3 transactions. Our panel of experts discusses these and other issues associated with IP considerations in the metaverse.

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  • Faculty


    Stephen Y. Chow, Esq., Stephen Y. Chow, PC, Boston


    Jenna F. Karadbil, Law Office of Jenna F Karadbil, P.C., New York
    Scott M. Kelly, Banner & Witcoff, LTD, Washington
    Joshua H. Lida, Shendell & Pollock, P.L., Boca Raton