Trademarks In The Veldt: Do Virtual Lawyers Dream Of Electric Trademarks??

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Copyright © 2011 the International Trademark Association. Reprinted with permission from The Trademark Reporter, 101 TMR 282 (2011).

I. INTRODUCTION

In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash, humans interact as avatars in the “Metaverse,” the collective product of online shared three-dimensional space.1 As imagined by Stephenson, this “Metaverse” has been created by all virtual worlds2—it is an augmented and enhanced physical reality, a physically persistent virtual space.3 The novel is set in Los Angeles during the early 21st Century. The federal government of the United States has relinquished its authority to private entrepreneurs and organizations. Franchising, individual sovereignty, and private automobiles reign supreme. Highway companies compete for traffic in the real world while the Metaverse is populated and travelled by user-controlled avatars and system daemons.

While Stephenson’s vision of the Metaverse has not yet been fully realized, the novel Snow Crash foresaw how a fully immersive three-dimensional virtual world could develop from the Internet and how a pizza deliveryman in Los Angeles might duel a businessman in Tokyo with samurai swords.4 The “future,” as it stands today, nevertheless demonstrates how Stephenson’s view of commerce as a driving force in the Metaverse is becoming a reality:

The loglo, overhead, marking out CSV-5 in twin contrails, is a body of electrical light made of innumerable cells, each cell designed in Manhattan by imagineers who make more for designing a single logo than a Deliverator will make in his entire lifetime. Despite their efforts to stand out, they all smear together, especially at a hundred and twenty kilometers per hour. Still, it is easy to see CosaNostra Pizza #3569 because of the billboard, which is wide and tall even by current inflated standards. In fact, the squat franchise itself looks like nothing more than a low-slung base for the great aramid fiber pillars that thrust the billboard up into the trademark firmament. Marca Registrada, baby.5

As Stephenson predicted, trademarks are an important feature of the virtual landscape.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP | Attorney Advertising

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