The rapidly growing but loosely regulated nonfungible token (NFT) industry already touches many areas of human endeavor “from academia to entertainment to medicine, art, and beyond,” wrote recently two United States senators in a letter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the U.S. Copyright Office. The legislators were requesting a study to explain how this emerging technology fits into the world of intellectual property (IP) rights, including copyrights, trademarks and patents.
It is an area that some say is marked by ambiguity and inconsistent application of the law, and sometimes indifference from the courts. “Many feel it is time for Congress to step in and provide the predictability needed for innovation to flourish,” Michael Young, partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, told Cointelegraph.
The joint study that senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis requested from the agencies, due June 2023, has as background a recent slew of high-profile lawsuits — Nike v. StockX, Hermès v. MetaBirkins and Miramax v. Quentin Tarantino — that raise some sticky questions about NFT creation, ownership and dissemination.
In one case, an NFT was minted — without permission — featuring sneakers with a Nike Swoosh. In another, NFT-related digital images were created of Hermès’ Birkin handbags, covered in fur, not leather, but also unlicensed. In a third, a famed movie director created NFTs from a film he directed but didn’t own.
A “wave of litigations has already begun for trademarks and copyrights, and courts are…