It has been a crazy few years to say the least. But it’s important to take a look back and analyze what transpired during that time. We’ve seen more and more people & businesses getting online and using the internet to build brands and make connections. We saw people and their businesses explode overnight using social media like IG and TikTok. Social audio apps like Clubhouse, Wisdom, Twitter Spaces were born and helped people and businesses create communities that led to exponential sales and growth. With the pandemic raging and people stuck at home, many took advantage of the internet as a way to make money, build businesses and grow communities.
Overall, the dramatic virtual evolution has just begun. Technological advancements are evolving EVERY DAY, and those advancements are giving those that are getting in early significant opportunities for wealth, and also creating more and more legal issues in new, unregulated and not heavily watched territories.
As an intellectual property attorney and entrepreneur, here are some of the trends I predict for 2022.
1. Intellectual Property (IP) Will Become a Known & Understood Term
Intellectual Property is something that not everyone knows off the top of their head — I frequently hear it — and its acronym IP — referred to as technical terms.
But that is changing rapidly as more and more individuals enter the entrepreneurial market, create side hustles, and make their presence online. If you’re a business online, you need to make sure you do not accidentally steal someone else’s name and get sued. Plus, having IP protection and IP registrations will help ensure you own your names, provide more legitimacy and protection when selling, monetizing and licensing your names, content and other business assets, and will save significant financial and emotional expense down the road.
IP is a term that all business owners & creatives need not only need to know, but also need to understand.
So what is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind. These are your names, logos, designs, brands, content, courses, photos, videos, inventions, client lists, and so much more. Intellectual property protection includes registering those IP assets where applicable and having an IP protection plan in place designed and implemented by a lawyer.
If you’re interested in learning more, watch “IP Basics: What is Intellectual Property and Why is it Important?
2. Trademark Real Estate Will Continue to Be More Scare
Trademarks are a form of IP that protect names, designs, brands, logos & more. They are source identifiers — meaning, they tell your customers that you are behind a particular service or product. Trademark real estate is LIMITED, and with more and more people creating brands and businesses, we’ve seen a rush to the registrar. It is becoming increasingly more challenging to register a name. I have clients that first send me large lists of names and we run searches going down the list to find the name that is the least risky — so many are already taken. One may think we’re running out of words in the English language to use as trademarks!
We will definitely see the numbers continue to increase with trademark registrations, particularly with smaller to midsized businesses that can’t afford running into expensive legal issues, so they’ll work with IP lawyers to choose less risky names and file the right way.
3. NFTs will Become More Mainstream
I think by now everyone has heard of NFTs. An NFT, short for a non-fungible token, is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain. Doesn’t sound too sexy, right? Then why are they important and how are teenagers, artists, celebrities and brands making millions of dollars from them? NFTs transform digital art and collectibles into one-of-a-kind assets that are easy to trade and verify on the blockchain.
Digital art and digital collectibles may still be something that most people can’t wrap their head around. But there are so many reasons why NFTs are lucrative and becoming mainstream.
NFTs are Art
Digital art is art. There is something to be said about owning your own unique digital piece of art, in and of itself, without any other perks.
But powered by the blockchain, NFTs are also verifiable art. Think of the crazy statistics around art and collectibles fraud. Some experts estimate that 50% of the art in circulation is fraudulent! But what if you could know for sure that your art or collectible was an original, unique, one of a kind piece? Because each transaction is recorded on the blockchain and cannot be altered, NFTs can ensure that the artwork or collectible is original.
NFTs Build Communities
NFTs are also about community building. Some NFT projects build communities and give perks beyond just the ownership of the NFT. Owning an NFT can give you access to conferences, meetups, masterminds, merch, and so much more. NFTs are a great opportunity for people who have communities, such as celebrities, influencers, and business coaches, to build communities.
NFTs Can Give Automatic Royalties to the Creator and the NFT Holder
NFT owners can give back to their followers & fans with the ability to give the NFT holders royalties. Importantly, the creatives and NFT owners themselves can get a royalty every time their NFTs are sold — it’s an automatic transaction that will go right into their crypto wallet. No need for all the centralized middlemen to collect and manage license fees and royalties.
NFTs Present a Great Opportunity for Collabs
We’re also going to see more and more brands use NFTs, either directly by hiring their own artists and creating their own art, or collaborating with artists or blue chip NFT projects that already have success. For example, the Adidas NFT collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club, Punks Comics, and GMoney sold more than $22 million in NFTs.
NFT Projects Will Use Lawyers
Brands Will Start Enforcing NFT Infringement
From a brand protection standpoint, more and more brands are going to monitor the NFT space for infringement. Many NFTs out there already raise infringement issues. Just because no legal action has been taken doesn’t mean that the NFTs don’t infringe: it could be that the trademark, copyright and publicity rights holders are unaware or have not taken action. Brands and creatives need to be aware and work with IP lawyers to understand the risks when creating art that uses someone else’s names, images or content.
NFTs Have Vast Potential Beyond Digital Art
Right now digital art is the focus of NFTs, but the potential is really endless. Virtual real estate and virtual goods are NFTs that will operate in the Metaverse and help businesses make money using virtual reality. NFTs are quickly evolving and we are just at the beginning of their potential. It’s a space everyone needs to watch and consider to determine how to make money and protect their intellectual property.
4. Decentralized Web3 will Continue to Change the Internet
In simple terms, Web3 is the next phase of the internet. But before we talk about Web 3, let’s explain Web 1 and Web 2 in basic terms.
Web 1 refers to the first stage of the Internet, with static web pages.
Web 2 refers to websites that highlight user generated content and social media. Web 2 also marks the era of centralization, where most of the communications and transactions take place on platforms owned by big companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon, and are supposed to be subject to control of government regulators.
Web 3 intends to break free of centralized and monopolistic control. The whole concept is that it’s a decentralized ecosystem based on blockchain — so the blockchain would verify transactions, without needing to be managed by a centralized third party.
There is much discussion about whether or not decentralization and less regulation is a good thing or a bad thing, but this is something that isn’t going away.
5. The Continued Building of the Metaverse
The Metaverse is a mix of multiple technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality and video where users hang out in a digital universe. It’s a virtual world where users can work, play and connect with strangers, friends, colleagues and clients. There are different virtual reality spaces that companies are building, such as Decentraland and The Sandbox. Meta and Microsoft are currently building theirs. One day they may all link together to actually form. “the Metaverse.” Currently, there are concerts, malls, hang out spots happening in VR. Virtual real estate is also for sale in the Metaverses like The Sandbox and Worldwide Webb.
More companies, creatives and individuals will utilize the Metaverse and VR as a way to meet with friends and clients. Businesses will create projects in the virtual world to sell virtual & real goods & services. Individuals are and will continue to use it for entertainment, to shop, hang out, and get out of the house without having to leave the house.
The businesses, creatives and individuals who learn how to monetize VR and the Metaverse will win out in the next few years.
Conclusion: Why these trends are important
Maybe “trend” isn’t the right word. Because all 4 of the “trends” I’ve mentioned are not going anywhere — in fact, they are constantly evolving and every business, creative and individual needs to understand them to be successful in our new virtual world.
There are opportunities right now to be the first in new spaces — and those spaces and potential exist today with NFTs, Web3 and the Metaverse. Businesses can create and protect their intellectual property in our physical world, on the internet, and in Web3 and the Metaverse.
Decades ago no one could imagine the potential the Internet would have to build successful businesses and lives. The same opportunities are here today to invest in yourself and your business with intellectual property, NFTS, Web3 and the Metaverse.
Even if you’re skeptical, you should learn about these topics to make an informed decision for yourself as opposed to letting opportunities pass you by.
I truly believe that the people who will take the time to learn and get creative with how to utilize intellectual property and new technology for business and wealth creation will be the ones in the next five to ten years that will be the most successful in their industries.
Francesca Witzburg, Esq. is an award-winning intellectual property attorney specializing in all things trademarks, copyrights and contracts. Contact Francesca at Francesca.firstname.lastname@example.org and follower her on IG at @thetrademarkattorney and @decentralawyer
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