“Metaverse” is a portmanteau of two words; Meta which means “beyond” and Verse which means the “world”. Mark Zuckerberg called it the new the future and “in many ways the ultimate face of technology.” The jury’s still out on how widespread this venture will be, but either way it does give us some interesting IP-related matters to think about.
What is the Metaverse?
So the question arises: what is this metaverse? Why are such big companies like Meta formerly Facebook and Microsoft investing in it?
Technologically speaking, the metaverse is a three dimensional digital environment in augmented reality. It cannot be accessed using one’s smartphone, tablet, or the computer. One would need to wear the virtual reality sensors and visors. Using blockchain AR, and VR these giant tech companies want to dominate the metaverse. Companies like Gucci, Balenciaga, Roblox have also become part of this world. The Metaverse also heavily relies on blockchain and crypto currencies to combat counterfeiting and help maintain the authenticity of goods.
As brands continue to make virtual models of their products, the need for protection will arise. IP laws governing patents, trademarks, copyright etc. will be used to protect the AR VR versions of these brands. As metaverse makes interactions more real, non-traditional marks like moving image marks and sound marks will develop.
The pandemic of 2020 severed physical interactions on a global scale, leading to a boost in the popularity of alternative modes of communication. That’s when people took to the internet to fulfil their daily activities. One could stay at home yet efficiently attend meetings or take educational courses. Education, entertainment banking all continued online. Metaverse enhances this experience, by providing visualisation and immersive experience. By using augmented reality one can immediately see how a sofa will look in their home instead of imagining it. One can try on clothes virtually to see how it fits, instead of comparing themselves to the catalogue model.
IPR In the Metaverse: Examples
Trademarks: As more brands make virtual copies of these products demands for laws like patents, trademark will increase. The need and the opportunity for non-traditional marks like sound, scent or moving image marks are also likely to rise.
Copyright: Section 14 of the Copyright Act 1957 grants copyright protection to computer software. The underlying code used to create the programme can also be copyrighted. As this is still very new technology, the question of ownership remains unclear. When a player creates a game in the VR using a company’s aid, the Company and the player both may claim ownership. The company provided the coding platform to the player on one hand and may want to be the owner, on the other had the player may claim to be the author of the work who had put in his skill and hard work.
Patents: Section 3(k) of the Patent Act does not grant computer programs per se a patent. However all computer programmes work in combination with hardware, after such combination if the hardware is able to perform some new function, then such computer program can be patented. To qualify for this, the software must be attached to the invention and be a part of that invention. Notably, Disney won its patent case for virtual reality theme park launched in the metaverse.
The first challenge, of course, is regarding the widespread use of the technology. For applying IP laws territorial principle has always been regarded, but in the metaverse it becomes too difficult to locate exactly where the infringement has occurred. In India the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 states that jurisdiction is where the cause of action arises. In the Casio India Company case the relevant website was accessed from Delhi hence Delhi High Court was vested with territorial jurisdiction. Brand holders need investigation teams and must be mindful of their intellectual property. Using AI automated system as investigative tools, one could locate the place where infringement occurs.
Since Metaverse is made up of online services, the problem arises when the service provider is outside the host IP country. Here it becomes difficult to determine where the infringement has occurred. Where such issues take place, the laws of each country need to be separately analysed. Then, effective measures needs to be applied to take down infringing matter.
Besides infringement, specific laws dealing with cybersquatting must be implemented. As there is no uniform IP law across the metaverse there can be no uniform solution.
Additionally, as the AR/VR technology grows, new computer software will be created. Computer software must be patented to promote and safeguard the interest of inventors.
In India the concept of virtual and augmented reality is still in the natal stages. Filing patents and other forms of IP may seem very expensive or completely unnecessary for smaller market players, but the importance of IP in an increasingly digital world cannot be underestimated.
Another issue that may pop up is how even with IP protection, many refuse to file suits for infringement for fear of the long court process. Steps like easy e- filing of IP and cost effective remedies should be made available to combat this.
The existing IP laws can be applied to the virtual reality but more work needs to be undertaken to create new clauses. So that all aspects of virtual reality are protected.
Author: Dipanwita Chakraborty, Legal Trainee at PA Legal.
In case of any queries, kindly contact us here.
Thank you for reading our blog! We’d love to hear from you! 🙂
- Are you Interested in IP facts?
- Would you like to know more about how IP affects everyday lives?
- Have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover?