The metaverse is the answer to escaping your couch without actually leaving it to do whatever you want in a paralleled virtual universe – hangout with friends, drive race cars, shop designer brands, buy digital land, or do just about anything else you can imagine. The metaverse may seem far-fetched, but so did smart phones when everyone was talking on their corded landlines not too long ago.
The metaverse parallels social media with concepts of engagement and world-wide connection, for both users and business. Both spaces allow for users and businesses to expand outside of their geographical area and establish a strong online presence. However, social media and the metaverse are not the same thing. Our current interactions on social media are engaged on a ‘push’ basis. Information, such as comments and likes, are pushed to us with notifications. We are also ‘pushed’ video and image ads. However, the metaverse will be less ‘push’ information and more of an embodied interaction with information and our environment. The metaverse will offer an immersive digital world that feels physical and tangible in nature. Interacting with metaverse has the opportunity to shift the internet in a new direction and pose new intellectual property rights for developers, contributors, and users.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is often described as a function of an abstract 3-dimensional interactive space that blurs the boundaries of reality to create an immersive virtual universe. Simply put, the metaverse is a digital space where you can feel physically present as you interact with other users and objects in a virtual environment.
The backbone of the metaverse is virtual reality, augmented reality, and block-chain technology. The combination of these three developments enables avatars, items, events, and environments to create a digital world similar – or dissimilar – to the one we interact with in real life.
Notions of the metaverse already exist in the gaming industry, but many more are coming as major corporations and tech giants invest heavily into this futuristic space.
The metaverse will push the boundaries of our society. Our interactions will be virtual yet still include interactions through friends, the economy, media, advertisements, and purchases. Our online presence will continue to grow and develop. As such, it is important to consider our privacy and intellectual property rights as we enter the metaverse.
Metaverse ownership will likely be multi-faceted and dependent on which metaverse platform you enter and interact with. Ownership may function similarly to how social media platforms are owned.
Programs and devices related to the metaverse will be developed, patented, and highly litigated. Inventors will face legal issues over patentable subject matter and race to be the first to create novel, useful, and non-obvious metaverse inventions. Inventive programs, interactive tools, or methods of interacting with the metaverse will amplify the operability and/or experience of a new virtual universe.
Additionally, software will likely be heavily contested as it is developed, copyrighted, licensed, and enforced. Thoughtful and comprehensive licensing contracts will help protect intellectual rights, both for the current and future metaverse states.
Digital Item Ownership
A major difference between social media and the metaverse is ownership of metaverse assets/digital items, such as avatar clothing, virtual land, and interactive tools.
Metaverse assets/digital items are dependent on block-chain technologies and smart contracts. A smart contract’s terms of agreement are set in code and self-executed when pre-defined conditions are fulfilled. Smart contracts can be embedded in non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
As previously discussed, an NFT is a digital item (picture, gif, interactive item, etc.,) that is created, recorded, and verified on block-chain technology. Embedding smart contracts into NFTs will establish and track authentic items, intellectual property rights, and ownership as metaverse assets/digital items are traded among users or between digital universes.
Metaverse assets/digital item ownership is important to a user’s experience and interaction. Users can do just about anything with an NFT in a virtual world, including creating avatars to wear designer clothing, hanging paintings in their digital house, buying horses to race, or creating their own item for a virtual environment.
As a business, it is crucial to protect your brand and trademarks in the metaverse as more NFTs are created for users. Unauthorized third parties have already targeted luxury brands and trademarks by minting merchandise into NFTs or applying for trademark use in the metaverse. Meanwhile, other well-known brands are taking proactive approaches and filing for trademark use in metaverse spaces – similar to how brands filed for trademark use on social media in its early days. Regardless of your strategy, it is important to enforce all copyright and trademark rights in a digital space to control your brand image and rights.
Metaverse development will be rampant and complex as more companies invest into the development of this digital universe. Thoughtful and intelligent planning is needed when it comes to intellectual property rights, which will guide how the metaverse is created, how users interact with it, and how brands will conduct business.