The IPO has published updated trademark guidance in respect of the classification of NFTs, virtual goods, and the Metaverse.

This comes as recent analysis by the IPO of around 4.1 million trademark applications on its database – using search terms such as ‘virtual environments’ and ‘Web3’ – found that:

    • The number of such applications increased five-fold from 2014 to 2017, with subsequent years maintaining the new higher level of volume.
    • A total of 2.4% of all UK IPO trademark applications in 2022 included a virtual reality-related term.

IPO NFTS, virtual good and the metaverse

The updated guidance aims to provide greater clarity for those applying for trademark specifications containing these terms, and guidance on the acceptable ways in which these terms can be framed and the correct class in which they fall.  It has been published following extensive discussions with the IPO’s stakeholders and user organizations.

The IPO recognizes that the terms are representative of new forms of goods/services in a fast-moving technological field, and will continue to update this guidance as and when new developments arise.

The IPO’s Head of Trade Marks and Designs Examination, Legal and Practice Division, Oliver Morris said:
“Along with many other registering authorities, we have seen an increasing number of applications for trademark specifications containing virtual reality-related terms. The process of applying for any trademark should always be as simple, efficient, and user-friendly as possible. To help provide greater clarity for trademark applicants wishing to make an application that specifies these terms, we have updated our published guidance to assist customers in selecting the correct terms and classification when making their application to register a trademark. This forms part of our ongoing work to help ensure the IP system continues to meet our customers’ needs, and acts as an effective catalyst for creativity and innovation”.

The IPO’s Deputy Director of Strategy Development and Delivery said:
“Futures thinking, foresight, and horizon scanning functions are an increasingly integral part of the UK Intellectual Property Office’s work – ensuring that the UK’s IP environment remains world-class.  As the development and trajectory of metaverse technology is blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds, we are continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the newly formed Department of Science, Innovation and Technology and other relevant bodies to align our understanding of the metaverse, Web3 or ‘Immersive Virtual Worlds’, while continuing to make sure that our IP framework is fit for today and the future.

Of course, there remain many big, long-term questions yet to answer –  but it is essential we think about them now.  IP is at the heart of the UK’s ambition to be the most innovative and creative country in the world – a technology and science superpower. The continued input and engagement of our stakeholders on these questions remains crucial, helping to ensure we can all embrace the opportunities these exciting developments in technology herald, and continue to play a leading role in global conversations”.


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