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Crypto and metaverse trademark applications on the rise

By Monte Stewart


Updated

A pair of Puma shoes
Companies are applying for crypto-related trademarks - Photo: Shutterstock

Cryptocurrency and metaverse-related trademark applications are increasing rapidly, according to a leading US intellectual property lawyer, but companies want to do more than develop digital coins, non-fungible tokens, and bitcoin mining operations.

Companies in various sectors are seeking to trademark labels as they attempt to tap into a wide range of future business opportunities as crypto and the metaverse expand, said Josh Gerben, founding partner of Gerben Intellectual Property in Washington, D.C., in an interview with Capital.com. 

‘Night-and-day difference’

Among other activities, applicants are seeking to create cryptocurrencies and NFTs, sell virtual goods, and set up virtual stores. Compared to this time last year, the rise in trademark demand is “a night-and-day difference,” Gerben said.

“When Facebook announced they were going to change their name to Meta, everyone started paying a lot more attention to the metaverse,” he said.

Now in its infancy, the metaverse is considered the future of the Internet. The metaverse combines virtual reality, augmented reality, video, 3D and other technologies enabling people to live, work, and play in a digital world.

In the case of commerce, the metaverse allows users to test and wear digital products tied to physical items available in virtual outlets.

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Like regular shopping

“It can feel very much like a traditional shopping experience without having to go into the (bricks-and-mortar) store,” Gerben said.

New and existing companies see the metaverse as the future and are trying to figure out where they fit in, he added.

“Nobody wants to be the next Blockbuster,” said Gerben, referring to the former video-rental chain that went bankrupt in 2010. “You don’t want your business model to become obsolete.”

It was revealed this week that Walmart has filed several crypto and metaverse-related trademark applications. The company is not discussing its plans specifically, but Canadian intellectual property lawyer Wayne Logan told Capital.com that he expects the big-box retailer to develop its own cryptocurrency and digital products that will lead to more sales of physical items.

Logan said he expects many other big-box retailers to follow suit.

Puma files application

Gerben noted that running shoe and sports apparel manufacturer Puma filed a trademark application tied to digital products with the US Patent and Trademark Office last week. The application shows that Puma wants to develop an interactive website and software for virtual-reality game and entertainment services, namely by providing online, non-downloadable virtual footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, bags, sports bags, backpacks, sports equipment, art, toys, accessories, digital animated and non-animated designs and characters, avatars, digital overlays, and skins for use in virtual environments.

The company also wants to provide online non-downloadable game software and online video games; a virtual environment in which users can interact for recreation, leisure, or entertainment purposes; streamed video and livestreamed events; and virtual performances and social events.

StockX launches sneaker NFTs

This week, e-commerce operator StockX launched its own sneaker NFTs, known as Vaults. Customers will be able to invest in NFTs tied to physical products and trade them instantly, according to the company.

“We believe that the physical items that trade on our platform are part of a new alternative asset class that can be uniquely associated with NFTs,” said StockX CEO Scott Cutler in a news release. The buyer of a StockX Vault NFT will also own the corresponding physical item, including the opportunity to take possession of it at any time.”

The physical products are stored in a StockX climate-controlled facility. Each item has its own serial number linked to a physical product.

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The NFTs are minted under custodial authority as ERC-1155 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain to reduce transaction fees, minimize environmental impacts, and create provenance.

“Vault NFTs will help unlock new trading opportunities, reimagining what is possible when it comes to investing in current culture on StockX,” said Cutler. “By bridging the physical and digital worlds, we’re able to provide a more efficient trading experience anchored by lower costs and storage capabilities – a buyer no longer has to wait several days before they can resell a product, and they don’t have to pay the fees associated with multiple legs of shipping and physical authentication.”

Cutler said StockX is “just getting started” on a future in which NFTs can be bought and sold across multiple platforms with cryptocurrency.

In December, Nike acquired RTFKT, a digital creator of virtual sneakers, collectibles and accessories. Nike has also filed a number of trademark and patent applications related to its aim to create and sell virtual sneakers and apparel. In 2019, the company applied for a patent on blockchain-based running shoes known as Cryptokicks.

Nike has also partnered with the Roblox video game platform to launch Nikeland, a digital world for Nike fans to play games, connect, and dress their avatars in virtual apparel via a digital showroom.

Adidas’s first collection

Also in December, Adidas launched its first NFT collection, known as Into the Metaverse. And, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which owns and manages retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal’s branded merchandise and labels like Forever 21, Barneys New York, and JC Penney, has filed for a series of trademarks that point to the development of virtual goods.

In other December activity, Forever 21 launched a partnership with Virtual Group. The agreement allows users to buy and sell Forever 21 merchandise, and customise their own stores, on the Roblox video game platform.

ABG owns and manages Shaquille O’Neal’s branded merchandise and also owns brands like Forever 21, Barneys New York and JCPenney. The company filed for a series of trademarks for some of these brands last month, indicating a potential for virtual goods in the future.

O’Neal, in partnership with ABG, filed for three trademark applications for the word Shaq in December. According to the filings, these trademarks apply to items including “non-downloadable virtual footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear” and more “for use in virtual environments.”

Several tokens offered

Under Armour, the Gap, and Gucci are among several other companies that have launched digital tokens in recent months.

GOAT Group, Stitch Fix, Old Navy, and Ralph Lauren executives have also expressed interest publicly in getting involved with NFTs and the metaverse in the future.

That means many more crypto and metaverse trademark applications are likely on the horizon.

“I highly doubt that there’s a single business out there that isn’t thinking about getting into the metaverse,” said Gerben.

The lawyer said his firm would not have received requests for help with such intellectual property protection three years ago.

“This is something that was not on the top of people’s minds three years ago – and now it very much is,” he said.
 

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