Talking about the metaverse in 2022 sounds a little like talking about the world wide web in 1985. Although still in its crawling stage, the metaverse is ripe with opportunity for those who grasp its potential and move forward to protect and leverage their intellectual property assets now, with an eye to the future.

In this article, we will broadly describe the metaverse, its economic and social relevance, and some critical factors to consider when protecting your intellectual property in this virtual space.

What Is the Metaverse?

At its most basic, the metaverse is an environment where multiple elements of technology, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), combine to allow a user to “live” and interact within a digital universe. Supporters and early adopters stress it is not a single place or destination. Rather, it is a limitless digital environment where users work, play, and stay connected to others. It has the potential to change the way industries like manufacturing, healthcare, education, travel and tourism, retail, and more function and will pave the way to develop countless products, services, and solutions in ways yet unimagined.

The metaverse is making inroads with consumers slowly. The popular Oculus VR goggles are being adopted by consumers looking for enhanced, immersive experiences. Additionally, companies like The Home Depot and Wayfair use AR to let customers see how home improvements and new furnishings will look in a space before purchasing. Gaming is another area embracing the metaverse. Familiar titles like Pokémon GO, Fortnite, and Minecraft let users immerse themselves in entirely new worlds where they can create and interact with their environment as well as other players.

The History of the Metaverse

The phrase “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson back in 1992, when he used it to describe a 3D virtual space. Consumers were welcomed into the metaverse in 2003 when Linden Lab released Second Life, an online virtual experience. In 2014, Facebook staked a claim in the metaverse when it acquired VR hardware and platform developer Oculus. The game Fortnite went further, introducing immersive events like concerts and tours to consumers in 2017. And in 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta, instantly bringing worldwide awareness of the term “metaverse.”

Why Should You Care about the Metaverse?

Mark Zuckerberg sees the metaverse as a “mishmash of existing technologies and ones still in development, all working together to create a tangible, digital layer on top of reality… accessed via goggles, glasses, and other tech still in the works.”

Although still in its early stages, the metaverse is developing at a rapid pace thanks in part to advances in technology, the continuing evolution of the internet and social media, and demands of our society.

Evolution is critical if the metaverse is to become widespread, widely adopted, and significant to consumers personally, socially, and economically. Specifically, companies producing the hardware to access the metaverse (e.g., goggles, glasses, etc.) need to improve their products significantly—everything from the screen resolution to the weight and audio quality—while lowering the price if they want to gain mass market appeal. High-speed internet needs to be available everywhere, all the time. And finally, companies will continue to need innovative and reliable ways of working and collaborating remotely.

And therein lies the opportunity.

Patenting Metaverse Technology

A great deal of the news around the metaverse involves cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and artistic creativity. However, it is important to focus on and understand the foundational technology on which the metaverse is being built and how it can be patented both in the real world and in the metaverse. Smart companies are already patenting metaverse innovations to protect their investments in such innovations for the next 5 to 20 years.

When examining technology and IP, companies need to be creative and forward-thinking in the way they view those assets. The metaverse can include AR and MR, not just VR. While many are focused on the VR side of things, savvy companies could obtain valuable, broad patents on other permutations of innovations for training, safety, healthcare, manufacturing, repair, construction, and other areas.

Do not assume existing patents cover their use in the metaverse, and do not assume you cannot patent a novel way of collaborating and interacting within the metaverse. Specifically:

  • Start thinking about ways existing technology can be adapted for users in the metaverse
  • Start brainstorming technology development efforts now to get a jump on competitors
  • Update your patents, and file for new patents as soon as possible

Where Does the Metaverse Go from Here?

The metaverse’s potential is limitless, but there are four factors affecting how that potential is realized:

  • Access: More people need access to high-speed internet, faster computers at home, and affordable technology (e.g., VR headsets).
  • Public perception: Public trust and positive perception are essential.
  • Technology: Software and functionality will need to rapidly evolve to contain the metaverse. It cannot exist if software and hardware are unable to keep up.
  • IP Laws and regulations: Companies and regulators are working to build a safe and profitable virtual world. Laws about ownership, membership, marketing, and other aspects need to be defined quickly.

Companies are already taking steps to shift their technology strategies to conquer the metaverse; now their IP strategies need to change as well. This requires companies to think about an environment that does not yet exist, imagine what it might be, and address intellectual property protection issues to meet those future needs.

The attorneys at Blueshift IP are well-versed in how patents and patent law will be vital to promote innovation in this rapidly changing virtual world. If you are interested in learning more about patenting your metaverse innovations, contact the attorneys at Blueshift IP at info@blueshiftip.com.

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