Take a look at your feet. Many of you (raises your hand) are currently wearing Nikes. Nike reported that its revenue increased 19% to $44.5 Billion for the fiscal year ended May 31, 2021. But it’s there. But what about in the Metaverse
Why Nike is interested the Metaverse
The easiest, but not the most complete way to imagine the Metaverse for those who are unfamiliar is to imagine yourself in a videogame. Nike offers very cool meta-stuff.
This is not a joke. The Metaverse is a serious topic for Nike.
According to patent filings, which date back to 2018, in the pre-Metaverse universe, Nike appears to have been seriously stockpiling the tools it needs in order for the Metaverse. These digital tools include sneakers, avatars, and other forms virtual branding. Nike will sell you digital products, and you will because Nike knows how you feel about them. But the meta-plan revolves around whole digital worlds.
Does this simply Nike being Nike? Yes, it is. But if we define it as creating net new revenue streams, which it has done throughout its history, then that’s fine. The Metaverse swag will be owned by someone, and it could as well be Nike.
The Metaverse rules will be new for Nike.
Nike must be ready for the possibility of destruction through duplication. Nike has been litigious in recent times regarding its intellectual property (IP). In the Metaverse, however, duplication will go beyond our current notions of what is legal. What Nike would consider pirates, but others would call artists, will have a profound impact on the value of Nike’s Meta-Wares.
The Museum of Forgeries is an art project that has recently been launched in the real world. It has significant commercial applications. Mschf, a Brooklyn-based art collective, bought a Warhol original for $20,000 and created 999 forgeries. The original Warhol was then mixed with the forgeries and sold each Warhol for $250, which is a total of $250,000. $230,000 of this profit.
Related: Digital becomes physical: Top NFT galleries you can visit in person in 2021
The Metaverse will see the same thing. Rare Nike drops (what sneakerheads refer to as a new release of shoes or a color — also known as “colorway”) will occur. Some may be true, others may not be, but all will be either unknowingly or knowingly fake.
The Metaverse is a new concept for courts
Samir Patel, an attorney in Miami and an appointee of the Miami-Dade Cryptocurrency Task Force recently tweeted about how these courts will eventually deal with these metaverse disputes.
Devs who believe their inventions are legal loopholes will overlook the fact that a judge lacks knowledge about blockchain technology. Judges are not based on what you know. https://t.co/QDnLihGu9e
— Samir Patel (@SamirPatelLaw October 26, 2021
Patel was kind enough to talk to me about the reality of the new Metaverse. He explained how judges will soon realize that common law precedent is more of a hindrance to Metaverse cases than a help. Patel stated:
“Legal doctrine such as real property rights, breaching of wet contracts, and copyright infringement on human-derived works will govern relationships in the metaverse. (MV)
He said, “So, if Nike wants to take part in the MV with virtual storefronts or gear for avatars or create new products exclusive for the MV then its lawyers must build a nexus among the MV legal violation/claim and meatspace.”
The fact that very few judges and very few lawyers have ever heard or used the term “meatspace”, is an issue. This term refers only to our physical world and not cyberspace or virtual environments such as the Metaverse.
Yes, Metaverse claims must be simplified for judges.
Can Nike help to build a Metaverse legal structure
Patel sees real potential in this. He said that while Nike has the financial resources to train judges during trial, other petitioners would struggle to convince a judge that they have virtual property that is listed on a virtual land registry and maintained by a decentralized Blockchain.
Patel explained that if Patel were to purchase virtual land in the Metaverse the judge would likely view it as a sale and not as a transfer of real property. This virtual land cannot be recorded in a virtual registry for land because it is not subject to the jurisdiction of a municipality or sovereign.
So, if Nike sells a pair virtual sneakers but doesn’t deliver them to the buyer, that would be a breach in the sale of sneakers. Patel said that the value exchange must be clearly articulated, and may even be recorded in meatspace.
This will be a problem for judges in the real world, as there is no evidence that a contract was made in Metaverse. For example, a verbal agreement between two avatars. How can a judge decide which side is right in this dispute? It is exactly the same as a verbal agreement in meatspace. An avatar may prove that they rely on the Metaverse verbal contract, just as they might in meatspace. This could be evidence supporting a plaintiff’s claim.
Related: The Metaverse must be decentralized in order to work for everyone
The Metaverse could be just as litigious than meatspace
There will be many claims. Imagine the Metaverse, where Nike is suing for patent theft. Patel noted:
“IP laws will face scrutiny in the MV if artificial intelligence is used for creating landscapes or other virtual objects.”
He explained that AI-derived work is not protected by U.S. copyright law. If I deploy AI in the MV, and the AI creates some wonderful work, I have no rights to the derived works. Someone else could copy the work and claim copyright. Because the MV can be so large, it will be extremely difficult to protect copyrights. The infringer could also be an AI-deployed entity. These issues will be dealt with by judges using meatspace copyright laws.
We have one option to make judges see and decide cases in the Metaverse differently: change our laws to adapt to virtual reality. This change is necessary to make virtual reality legal.
Patel stated that the real legal reality is that “Nike would do well to hire lawyers that are well-versed in real estate, the Uniform Commercial Code and experts in blockchain technology.”
The Metaverse will offer a new virtual space for creating, selling, buying and sueing. It’s going be exciting to see it through legal, social, and commercial lenses. The fact that Nike is getting ready to create and sell in this new space, means that you should be ready for the Metaverse. It will soon be available on a computer or smartphone near you.
This article is not intended to provide investment advice. Every trade and investment involves risk. Readers should do their research before making any decision.
These views, thoughts, and opinions are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Cointelegraph.
Aron Solomon, Esquire Digital’s chief legal analyst, has previously taught entrepreneurship at McGill University as well as the University of Pennsylvania. Solomon was named to Fastcase 50, which recognizes the 50 most innovative legal professionals in the world. His work has been featured by CBS News, CNBC and USA Today.