Symbols and designs can find solace in United States trademark laws, but new evolutions in assigning value may push ownership boundaries.
Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are taking the internet by storm, netting values into the millions. But their new take on tagging ownership may not matter much when trademarks are on the line. From bidders at Christie’s auction house to those lining up in queues for NBA merchandise, understanding what ownership means may be as important as ever.
Tied to a public ledger, numbers on the blockchain give things a unique identifier. Most commonly used for things like cryptocurrencies, more and more users are now assigning strings to digital commodities. These can include things like digital pictures and videos.
But not just anyone can assign a number to a digital asset. The trend of linking things to the blockchain may be new, but it could still run afoul of trademark laws that have existed for years. It’s unlikely that someone can suddenly claim something and sell it on the blockchain.
While an NFT may put value in owning something, that ownership is far from the definition levied by the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office.
Owners of a specific instance on the blockchain may claim a level of ownership, but the original owner of the trademark for the product in question likely retains the legal rights. Selling a unique identifier generally transfers ownership of the identifier, not of the copyright in question.
It’s important in fluctuating times like these to make sure you have and maintain control of your trademark.