Who owns the intellectual property rights in virtual assets created in the Metaverse?

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  • Germany


The question of ownership of intellectual property rights in the Metaverse depends on the specific type of right and the circumstances under which it was created. Copyright protection arises automatically upon creation, without the need for registration, and can only be held by the creator, i.e., the natural person who created the work. Even if a Metaverse platform specifies legally binding terms and conditions that grant them certain usage rights for every copyrightable virtual asset created on their platform, they would still not be the owner of the copyright but would only be party to a license agreement.

By contrast, trademarks and design rights must be registered with the competent trademark office before they come into effect. Whoever registers the trademark or design right first becomes the owner of the intellectual property right in the virtual asset. Trademarks and design rights can be owned by natural persons and corporations alike. Therefore, if a Metaverse platform specifies legally binding terms and conditions that give them the right of first refusal to register trademarks and design rights for every object created on their platform, they could theoretically become the owner of these virtual assets. However, it is doubtful whether such an agreement would be enforceable.

Felix Tann

Intellectual Property and Competition Law

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