The metaverse is a virtual world that parallels our own, where one can socialize, work, and play as a digital avatar. This immersive virtual environment includes digital representations of people, places, and objects that mimic aspects and experiences of the physical world. Virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, social media, digital currency, and other digital assets are all technologies that users will engage with to interact in the metaverse. The concept recently plunged into the mainstream when Facebook decided to rebrand as Meta.
The concept revolves around the consumer need and desire to be able to connect with others without physically being in the same room. The metaverse can put you front row at a concert with your friends, take you on a luxury safari deep in the African Serengeti or in the stands cheering on your favorite team. It can provide opportunities that you may not otherwise be able to experience due to location, physical abilities, time constraints, or cost.
Relevance for brands
So, now we know what it is (at least in theory), should brands care about it? The simple answer is yes. The possibilities are endless with respect to expanding a brand and monetizing digital assets with an audience that was previously unreachable, and perhaps in geographic locations that were never accessible before.
Though the metaverse may seem a bit superfluous at present, brands are taking notice and being proactive in seeking protection for their trademarks relating to virtual goods and services. It is estimated that the seemingly futuristic metaverse will be with us in about five years. However, if the idea seems fantastic, the nuts and bolts of brand protection are not. McDonald’s, Nike, Vineyard Vines, and even Lebron James, have already filed for applications that include descriptions for virtual goods and/or services. Accordingly, the USPTO has experienced a significant rise in the number of trademark applications for these types of marks, making it evident that brands are clearly seeing the possibilities of a new, immersive, virtual-reality marketplace.
While the argument that a virtual world could replace the physical one is a stretch, brands will undoubtedly benefit from being proactive with, and engaging in, the metaverse, which has incredible potential to expand their digital footprint. Brands should plan and invest in their marketing, operations, and product or service offerings strategy for the metaverse. Leaders should consider how a brand’s business goals and objectives will evolve with this new way of connecting with people and what demographics or consumer types you can tailor your marketing efforts towards. The constraints of a physical world will no longer be a limiting factor.
Though the metaverse will provide a unique opportunity for brands to expand their reach and grow exponentially, it will also inevitably lead to new legal issues, including virtual trademark infringement and counterfeiting. To save some future heartache, protect your enforceable trademarks for goods and services related to the virtual sphere. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so act early.
This article originally appeared in World Trademark Review Weekly on March. 31, 2022, and is reprinted with permission.