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Design Patents in the Metaverse

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Metaverse is a coined word that combines “meta” (μετά, a preposition of “after” in Greek) and “verse” of “universe”. In the virtual world of the Metaverse, people interact with friends, family, and even strangers through technologies such as VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) to work, enjoy leisure, and shop. You can go to The rise of the Metaverse is expected to change our lifestyles to some extent. The term “design” as defined in Article 121, Paragraph 1 of the Taiwan Patent Act means the creation of the shape, pattern, color, or combination of all or part of an article, which is created by visual appeal. Similarly, in Section 4, Article 2 of the Chinese Patent Law, the term “design” means a novel design in whole or in part in shape, pattern, or combination thereof, as well as the combination of color, shape, and pattern. . of products that create aesthetics and are suitable for industrial applications. Since a virtual article or product in the metaverse is exactly the same as its real equivalent, this article provides a preliminary look at how or if it is possible to obtain design patent protection for the appearance of an article or product in the metaverse. intended to be investigated.

I. What is the Metaverse?

In 1992, the word “metaverse” appeared in a science fiction novel, snow crash, first time. In this novel, author Neil Stevenson conceptualized the Metaverse as a fully virtual world. This is his 3D virtual space similar to the real world where people can live, explore and interact as avatars. People can do anything in the Metaverse that they can do in the real world, and they can do many things that cannot be done in the real world, such as teleportation. Through the detailed images of the oasis in the movie “Ready Player One”, we were able to catch a glimpse of the Metaverse. [1].

From a business perspective, Facebook has announced that it will officially change its name to ‘Meta’ on October 28, 2021 and deploy social media in virtual worlds. At the same time, Microsoft also officially announced its full-scale entry into the Metaverse and the incorporation of Microsoft Mesh, an MR (Mixed Reality) conferencing platform, into Microsoft Teams to create a virtual world of the office environment. According to Bloomberg, if current Metaverse trends continue, the Metaverse market could reach US$800 billion by 2024, and new research by McKinsey & Company predicts that the Metaverse will be worth US$5 trillion by 2030. It has also been shown that it is possible to reach [1]all suggest that there is considerable business opportunity.

In terms of technology, as I mentioned at the beginning, the metaverse will be generated by technologies such as VR and AR. Specifically, there are core technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), VR, AR, MR, and blockchain. be done. .

II.Metaverse design patent

In the Metaverse, manufacturers not only use trademarks to distinguish the origin of their virtual products or services from others, but also use the design of the appearance of their products to attract consumers in the Metaverse to purchase virtual products. You can also. Therefore, there are certainly intellectual property issues such as trademarks, designs, and copyrights in the Metaverse. In fact, many of the world’s best-known companies, such as McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, L’Oreal Paris, BYD Company and Nike, have already begun developing their trademark portfolios in the Metaverse by filing with major patent and trademark offices. I’m here. An increasing number of applicants are filing metaverse design patents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and others. For example, US Design Patent No. 893,616S (perspectives 1 and 2 reproduced below) designates an article to which the design is applied under the design name “Augmented Reality Globe.” There is no difference in how to present the drawings from perspective views (see below) of design patents for other general articles, i.e., perspective views, six-sided views, and side views. favorite. In design patent practice in the United States, the title of a patent is of utmost importance because the title of the design can determine the articles to which the design applies. Take Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc. for example: [2], Curver sued Home Expressions for selling baskets that infringed a U.S. design patent number. D677,946, however, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has ruled that U.S. Design Patent No. D677,946, “Pattern for a Chair,” is a drawing of a “chair” and the claims cover a “basket.” not. Accordingly, the basket did not constitute infringement.

Perspective view 1 and 2 of USD893,616S

Further, taking the drawing of U.S. Design Patent No. USD947,874S as another example, the unclaimed portions of the design are represented by dashed lines (reproduced on the left, as shown in Figure 7 below). The “virtual space” displayed in VR glasses (reproduced on the right, as shown below in Figure 8).

Figures 7 and 8 of USD947,874S

To the best of our knowledge, the above is the current filing practice for metaverse design patents in the United States, and further development requires further observation. The following sections discuss issues related to metaverse design patents in both Taiwan and China.

I. In Taiwan

Regarding the design of tangible devices (e.g. VR glasses) for accessing the Metaverse, there is no difference from the general design of other tangible products with three-dimensional shapes, so they are certainly covered by design patents and are necessary. The application documents are the same as for common designs. Also, according to the TIPO article “Relationship between Metaverse and Design Patents” published on June 13, 2022, design cases of products with three-dimensional shapes are not classified as Metaverse design patent cases. Instead, TIPO classifies Metaverse design patent cases into his three categories according to their characteristics: “virtual space,” “virtual article,” and “human-machine interface.”

A. Virtual space (such as a non-physical space viewed through VR glasses): Drawing preparation for this category of design patent case can be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of “interior design” design patent drawings. Patent Examination Standards.

B. Virtual Goods (e.g. Game Treasures and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)): Drawing preparation for design patent litigation in this category should be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of “general article” design patent drawings. I can. Patent Examination Standards.

C. Human-Machine Interface (e.g., Operational Interface): The preparation of drawings for design patent cases in this category should be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of drawings for design patents in a “Graphic User Interface (GUI).” I can. Patent Examination Guidelines.

It should be noted that the above three categories of meta-universe design patent cases should be identified in the specification as “computer program products” to distinguish them from physical product design patent cases. This is because TIPO recognizes that non-physical product designs are digital designs generated by software, and that “computer program products” are the source of such digital designs, and that such digital designs do not apply. This is because we defined these products that were By revising the Patent Examination Guidelines, in 2020, “computer program products”

II.in china

A. China’s design patent practice is similar to Taiwan’s when it comes to designing products with specific shapes, such as designing hardware devices to access the metaverse (e.g. VR glasses). Applicants can obtain design patent protection in China by applying for a common design patent.

B. According to Decree No. 68 promulgated by China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) on March 12, 2014, China opened GUI design patent protection from May 1, 2014, but electronic Not all software interfaces for the product. Design patents are allowed. According to Chinese design patent practice, a GUI is patentable if it:

(1) embedded in certain hardware products; Given this, hardware-independent interface designs are not patentable.When

(2) Human-machine interaction can be done.

Therefore, graphics displayed by game interfaces and displays unrelated to human-machine interaction, such as wallpaper on electronic screens, startup/shutdown screens, and graphic layouts of web pages, are not related to human-machine interaction. Graphics displayed by a device cannot be granted design patents. Based on the above criteria, whether his GUI of various innovative operating software in the metaverse field can obtain a design patent requires further analysis on a case-by-case basis.

C. There is also ongoing debate in China as to whether the designs of various “products” created in the virtual world of the Metaverse are subject to design patents. As mentioned above, the Metaverse is a virtual world where people work and live, and various products and products similar to real products such as villas, cars, desks, sofas, and table lamps exist virtually. there is no doubt. Whether the design appearance of this virtual product is protected by patent law should be analyzed based on the definition of a design object in Chinese patent law. As mentioned above, according to the provisions of Article 2, Section 4 of the Chinese Patent Law, the term “design” means any new design of shape, pattern or combination thereof, and any combination of color, shape and pattern. To do. , in whole or in part, of a “product” that produces an aesthetic sense and is suitable for industrial use. Therefore, the first thing to consider is whether the “products” in the virtual world of the Metaverse belong to design products as defined in Chinese patent law. In the author’s opinion, according to current Chinese patent practice, Metaverse virtual products are not considered design products as defined in Chinese patent law. This is because these virtual products are not of the industrial kind and are not designed for industrial use, even if they could provide a good experience for the user in the metaverse. In addition, according to China’s “Patent Examination Standards”, only designs that are industrially applicable and mass-producible fall under the “industrial application” of Chinese patent law. On the other hand, product design in the Metaverse is not thought to be mass-produced in the traditional sense.

III. Conclusion

Currently, the number of Metaverse design patent applications and/or approvals in Taiwan and abroad is still small, indicating that each country is still in the early stages of exploration. From the above article referenced by TIPO, we can conclude that Taiwan remains open to filing metaverse design patents and also provides relevant filing guidelines. As for China, it may take more time for CNIPA to address the metaverse design patent issue. Still, one thing is certain: the metaverse will continue to evolve. Meanwhile, major international companies such as Meta, Microsoft and NVIDIA recently formed the “Metaverse Standards Forum” to standardize the Metaverse industry. In the future, in response to these trends, it is expected that some countries and regions will gradually open or relax the application conditions for Metaverse design patents.

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