Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become mainstream in the last couple of years, and during that time they have had a major impact on several sectors, one of which is intellectual property rights. This impact will be the subject of a recently announced joint study of U.S. copyright and trademark offices.
The United States Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that they would conduct the study, responding to a recent request from two lawmakers to determine how NFTs will soon change the IP field.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) requested earlier last month that the USPTO and the Copyright Office work together on the study. The two senators, who are the highest-ranking members of the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Rights, asked the two agencies to look at what IP rights related to NFTs look like today and how they are set to develop in the future. They recommended that the two agencies conduct the study before July 2023.
Some of the questions asked by the two legislators were:
- How does the transfer of rights apply? How does the transfer of an NFT affect the IP rights in the associated asset?
- How do license rights apply? Can and how can IP rights in the associated asset be licensed in an NFT context?
- What intellectual property protection can be granted? What IP protection can the NFT creator provide? What if the NFT creator is a different person or entity than the creator of the associated resource?
The two offices have now confirmed that they will carry out the study. They also revealed that they would involve other stakeholders from the NFT industry and the two legislators.
Despite being around (or at least in the mainstream) for only a few years, NFTs have been at the heart of many IP-related legal disputes. The most prominent involves the largest sportswear company Nike which has gone after the popular online shoe retailer StockX. The latter launched an NFT series based on Nike’s shoes, which according to the lawsuit corresponds to deliberate sales of counterfeits.
See: Presentation of BSV Global Blockchain Convention, NFTs: What Can We Do Better?
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