US Copyright and Trademark Offices Launch Joint Study on Impact of NFT on Intellectual Property Rights

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have gone mainstream over the past couple of years, and over that time they have had a big impact on several industries, one of which is intellectual property rights. This impact will be the subject of a recently announced joint study by the US 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 establish how NFTs will soon change the realm of intellectual property.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) formerly demand last month that the USPTO and the Copyright Office are working together on the study. The two senators, who are the most senior members of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, called on the two agencies to examine what intellectual property rights relating to NFTs look like today and how they are set to evolve. in the future. They recommended that the two agencies conduct the study by July 2023.

Some of the questions posed by the two lawmakers were:

  • How are the transfers of rights applied? What is the impact of the transfer of an NFT on the intellectual property rights of the associated asset?
  • How are license fees applied? Can and how can intellectual property rights in the associated asset be licensed in an NFT context?
  • What intellectual property protection can be granted? What IP protection can be granted to the creator of NFT? What if the creator of the NFT is a different person or entity than the creator of the associated asset?

Both offices now have confirmed that they will undertake the study. They also revealed that they would involve other NFT industry stakeholders and the two legislators.

Although they have been around (or at least in the mainstream) for only a few years, NFTs have been at the heart of many legal battles related to intellectual property. The The most important involves top sportswear company Nike taking on popular online sneaker retailer StockX. The latter launched an NFT series based on Nike’s shoes which, according to its lawsuit, amounts to knowingly selling counterfeits.

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