“Metaverse’ became the talk of the town during the post COVID era in expanding businesses online. As the Metaverse appeals to the tech-savvy younger generation, several brands have decided to launch their products to acquire a customer base and advertise them virtually through the Metaverse. Although there is still some doubt about the Metaverse, the race to protect intellectual property rights is already well underway. It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that, in a few years, the Metaverse Trademark registration might impact how we safeguard and uphold intellectual property rights.
Does Indian trademark law protect Metaverse?
The Metaverse, in short, combines augmented reality and virtual reality with blockchain technology and digital media concepts to create a 3D virtual world that allows for the creation of social connections and imitates user interaction in the real world, which is one of the famous and preferred channels of expanding the business.
The Indian stakeholders observed that the brands are racing to obtain trademark rights in the Metaverse. Several parties have already received statutory rights on the stand-alone term “METAVERSE” in several classes, according to a database published by the Indian Trade Marks Registry’s (“Registry”) online database.
Additionally, several Metaverse-related marks and artwork with the word Metaverse in it have been registered across classes. In addition to these, numerous METAVERSE-formative mark applications are in various stages of prosecution. Therefore, it appears that parties in India are vying for statutory rights to the term “METAVERSE” and METAVERSE-formative marks for all goods and services.
The good part is the Registry has been issuing such trademark registration without giving Section 9(1)(c) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, proper consideration, which reads as follows:
“The trademarks, which consist exclusively of marks or indications which have become customary in the current language or the bona fide and established practices of the trade, shall not be registered.“
A trademark cannot be registered under this section if it contains words that have entered common usage. It needs to be clarified why registrations are granted for the same identifier of a concept ain the first place, given that the Metaverse has captured the world’s attention and is an idea similar to Non-Fungible Tokens, Block Chain, Cryptocurrency, etc.
What has been the trademark registration in Metaverse under Indian trademark law?
Though there is a provision for trademark registration, India has not filed any metaverse applications to date. Such filings would protect trademarks for use in the Metaverse. So far, more than ten jurisdictions have granted registration of trademarks for goods and services. However, numerous entities recently submitted metaverse trademark applications. One of the earliest Metaverse-related registrations in India, for instance, falls under Class 9. This is a most-used class that covers “data processing equipment and computers, computer programs, downloadable virtual goods, namely, computer programs featuring footwear, clothing, headwear, eyewear, bags, sports bags, backpacks, sports equipment, art, toys, and accessories for use online and in online virtual worlds.”
There is a fine line in classifying goods/services in Metaverse from the real world. While some brands have filed applications based on elements related to the Metaverse, many businesses are still left behind. The issue is determining how to categorize their Metaverse-related goods and services under the NICE Classification. Regarding this, Indian courts have not passed any opinion. On the other hand, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”), reported an increasing number of metaverse trademark filings. EUIPO also suggested practice tips on classifying goods and services while filing such applications.
Sophisticated and precise categorization of goods and services is necessary. It may become the deciding factor in determining parties’ rights in the Metaverse in trade mark disputes. To protect their rights, applicants must fully understand the criteria. That include Metaverse’s components, economics, and definition of virtual goods and services before submitting trade mark applications.
Several Indian companies have actively used their trademarks in the Metaverse and sought statutory rights to protect them. For instance, the film industry uses Metaverse to promote films such as Radhe Shyam and KGF. Similar to this, well-known FMCG companies like McCain Foods and TATA Tea have organized Metaverse events as marketing tools. This is to publicize their upcoming products to a tech-savvy generation. Due to such use, common law rights extended for Metaverse regulation.