13 June, 2022

Business Growth Complicated Graph system over several busy highways w traffic
Intellectual property in the metaverse: an introduction
This article highlights the interactions between the metaverse and the intellectual property rights (IPR) involved. It starts by defining some concepts as regards the metaverse, in order to have a clear framework that will make it easier to understand how it works and, at a later stage, the IP concerns in play.

What is the metaverse?

The first reference to the term “metaverse” can be found in the 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Notwithstanding, there is no legal definition of the term metaverse, but in short, it can be understood as the mirror of the real world into a digital one. This parallel digital world clashes, and in a way interacts, with the real world. In this virtual reality world, users can socialise, interact, play and purchase products. Namely, a recreation of real life but in a digital parallel world. 

From this initial idea, back in the late 90s - early 2000s, some companies started developing parallel universes such as Second Life. Afterwards, they were followed by videogames platforms, such as GTA or FIFA which started to incorporate the possibility for users to interact between them.  Then, more videogames like Minecraft or Fortnite incorporated more functionalities, like payment methods based on their own in-game cryptocurrencies (like V-Bucks) which can be used to purchase outfits, or the so-called “wraps”, making possible to customise our character. 

More recently, Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the social media platform to “Meta”, with the aim of developing a new social platform, in which users will be able to interact and socialise, represented through their avatars. 

At this stage, before going further, it is important to differentiate the types of existing metaverses. They can be separated in two types, depending on their structure:

- On the one hand, as for the above-mentioned platforms Minecraft or Fortnite, are examples of only one company in charge of managing all the aspects related to this metaverse, namely handling the economic activity among users or the data generated by them. These are called “centralised”. 

- On the other hand, there are the “open” metaverses, where rather than centralising the activity in a single company, the functions are decentralised, by using the blockchain technology. They are run by a Decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), which is a useful tool to collaborate with unknown people, deciding your own rules and taking decisions in autonomy. As defined by Wikipedia, a DAO is an “organisation represented by rules encoded as a transparent computer program, controlled by the organisation members, and not influenced by a central government”. 

Therefore, there is no need to establish a centralised authority, since the decisions will be voted directly by the users and the rules are included in the code. 

Read the full article here.