Litigating Trademark And Copyright Cases In The Metaverse | The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash,[1] humans battle each other as avatars in the “Metaverse,” the collective product of online shared three‑dimensional space.[2] While Stephenson’s “Metaverse,” created by all virtual worlds as an augmented and enhanced physical reality and a physically persistent virtual space, does not exist today, millions of humans each year spend hours of their daily lives immersed in a three‑dimensional virtual world, fighting world wars, battling mythical creatures, living fantastic lives or running virtual businesses. Simply put, Stephenson’s science fiction view of future commerce in the Metaverse has become reality.As Stephenson envisioned, intellectual property is an important part of the virtual landscape. The current role of intellectual property in virtual reality demonstrates the promise and problematic nature of this new and different business world. This article will highlight some of the concerns and complexities that have been raised by recent cases of note regarding protecting one’s intellectual property in virtual worlds.[3]Recent cases, involving such diverse subjects as virtual art galleries,[4] sex toys,[5] stun guns,[6] strip clubs,[7] horses and bunnies,[8] and furniture,[9] highlight the legal issues and differences between virtual reality and real-life infringement cases. A review of these cases gives one insights with respect to protecting intellectual property assets in the world of avatars.
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