What does Metaverse mean for the world of Intellectual Property?December 10, 2021 By Khyati Dave
You will get all kinds of definitions and explanations about the Metaverse. However, when it comes to the intellectual property law for confirming Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of Metaverse, the sources are highly limited. The connection between Metaverse and the cautions related to Intellectual Property (IP) is still very blurred. Let us decode it here.
In the simplest term, suppose you want to buy a shirt. You visit various branded websites like Zara, Asos, Boohoo; or e-commerce marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, Sainsbury. It is always like checking one site after another. But when you click Google Shopping, you get all the available products from all kinds of websites on a single page. This is the most miniature version of Metaverse. Moreover, while availing Google Shopping experience, you use your smartphone, but for availing of Metaverse, you need to wear the VR headset for wider real-life activities.
Following the nature of adding availability and connectivity on a single platform, Metaverse is a huge space that is meta or beyond the current verse or universe of the internet. It has been designated as Internet 3.0 or Web 3.0, where the user gets the IRL (or the In Real Life) virtual world. The IRL is not only a replication of the real world but also the virtual version of real-life events and communications. The user can take the form of an avatar or alias personality and can come in contact with other avatars or alias personalities, for all kinds of interpersonal interactions. For entertainment and gaming purposes as developed by Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox; this real-life virtual world is a matter of great attraction. Moreover, after the prolonged lockdown and social distancing led by the pandemic, even the social gatherings are highly fascinated by Metaverse. However, the question is:
'when it comes to expressing creative ideas, is it safe to rely on or deal with the alias personalities around you?'
It is at this point, the grass-root concerns of infringement and accepting Metaverse demand some reality checks while dealing with IP.
Open Access to Privacy
Let us face it. Metaverse in "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson is called fictional, for a reason. The real-life visionary acceptance of this concept or practice needs to answer questions related to – trust and transparency, especially the IPR between the seller and the buyer. With open access to avatars or alias personalities in Metaverse, it is a grievous concern towards the trend of collecting user information by various online platforms. For example, the bullish encouragement for Facebook Metaverse by Mark Zuckerberg is to “Be Open”, which stands to get open to all kinds of information. The logical question is regarding the open accessibility of your personal information without any IPR law. Before accepting the Metaverse trend, always ask yourself:
‘though I am a well-informed person, yet can I detect misinformation, or protect my personal information in the cyber world?’
The establishment of IPR laws to protect privacy and cyber security is yet to take the big leap.
The need for IP licensing for availing IPR is important for any seller as it determines the rights over rates of royalty and the territory for selling the service or the product. However, in the case of Metaverse, the regulations related to IP licensing for IPR, especially in the domains of patent, copyrights, and trademarks & content ownership, where data protection and maintenance of consumer privacy, are yet to get determined. Though the current internet accessibilities are based on the fragile internet-related IPR, yet Metaverse needs more specifications and rigid scopes for IP licensing.
Patent & Copyright Dilemma
In the US, Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are not considered under any law for IPR patents. In the case of Copyrights, the US IPR rejects the registration of any work that is not created manually or by any human. Moreover, anything that is produced by Nature, or animal and plant kingdoms, are not subject to any authorship. The dilemma in the case of Metaverse is that the avatars or alias personalities are created by humans yet with exclusive involvement of AI. Thus The recent step of revising laws for the protection of designs produced digitally by the Korean Intellectual Patent Office is a mark of great reformation for regulating digital ‘communication, medical and security’. Similarly, for Metaverse, there is the need for specialised global IP law for the patent and copyrights of avatars or alias personalities, and this has been highly investigated by many IPR firms in Ahmedabad, India.[u2]
The trademark licensing in Metaverse is very necessary for the brands and vendors. Though proprietary IP of a brand can come in combination with its IP, while managing the trademarks, yet there is no mutually approved IPR for open accessibilities. As a result, under current trademark licensing laws, the future digital products by the respective brand or the vendor will be restricted from future marketing in the open platforms of Metaverse.
For instance, in Metaverse, the players can create avatars by using different kinds of digital products and can become real-life characters among real-life people of the virtual world. However, with the absence of trademark licensing for these digital branded products, they are highly prone to third party infringements. Check the recent case of the Louis Vuitton monogram.
The issues related to trademark licensing is closely related to the need for the content IPR. Since content is the core element for developing connectivity and popularity of the companies involved in Metaverse, IPR becomes essential. The user-generated content must get protection through IP laws. Reviews of content licensing in the Metaverse also demands serious attention. With the lack of IPR, the IP owners of the content and brand will find it impossible to keep watch over copyright infringement in the Metaverse. Though content licensing agreements are getting implemented on the internet, yet the expanded world of Metaverse needs serious reviews.
Under all these concerns, it is difficult to remain protective in an openly-accessible platform of Metaverse. However, at least in India, the IPR firms in India are guiding the Metaverse users to remain highly aware of its partners. These firms also acknowledge that Metaverse immediately needs appropriate intellectual property law to be implemented globally. Until then, Metaverse must wait for its open access usability.