By Ling Jin, Head of Digital & Commercial at Lusheng Law Firm and Holly White, Head of Service Development at Rouse
The metaverse has exploded in popularity over the last 12 months. Now, brand activity in this space is only set to increase, with consumers responding positively to the new experiences available to them; Mckinsey & Company recently surveyed more than 3,400 consumers worldwide and found two-thirds are excited about transitioning everyday activities.
Yet, despite the excitement around this new technology, launching virtual goods and experiences in the metaverse comes with complex regulatory requirements and many grey areas for brands’ intellectual property (IP) rights. With marketing teams leading much of the innovation in this space through campaigns, it is crucial for them to understand the legal risks involved and how to protect their brand’s reputation.
Legal pitfalls in the virtual world
Conducting digital marketing and activity in the metaverse can open marketers up to various pitfalls.
One easy mistake to make is to assume that a metaverse marketing campaign can be universally implemented across different regions. In fact, IP regulation is still catching up with digital developments, and different countries are crafting unique requirements. This means that marketers will likely need to adapt international campaigns per market to avoid exposing the business.
For example, to carry out an NFT competition in China, a marketing team would need to be aware of recently introduced cryptocurrency restrictions which mean that NFTs in China cannot be traded outside the region. Given the eye-catching nature of digital campaigns, missteps will be spotted quickly, and the stakes are high.
This brings us to the central challenge that activity in the metaverse is very visual. Branding, images and logos heavily contribute to a brand’s identity and reputation, but it’s easier for these to be misused in the virtual world. It’s crucial for marketers to protect against third parties making counterfeit copies, and against official branding being used by others in association with content unaligned with the brand’s values.
A common mistake is marketers taking a wait-and-see approach with their IP filing strategy. We are yet to see if IP enforcement in the metaverse will mirror real-world enforcement and current takedown mechanisms on e-commerce platforms, but it’s critical that brands ensure they have sufficient protection in place and that their enforcement strategies are aligned.
Creating greater IP awareness
The key learning here is that IP issues are no longer solely the remit of legal teams; marketers have a vital role in protecting their brand’s reputation and must be aware of the implications of their activities in the metaverse.
Strengthening collaboration between legal and marketing departments from the initial planning stages of projects will help to ensure that businesses aren’t caught out with digital campaigns.
The metaverse is only the start – new digital innovations will follow, and marketing teams must be ready for IP to have a seat at the table.