Metaverse Fashion Week 2022 and What on Earth Are NFTs?

The Jonathan Simkhai Online Store features both virtual and regular designs.

My last post on the metaverse turned into a 3000 word paper, but we only covered part of the foundation of the metaverse. I\’ll take the opportunity in this post to discuss non fungible tokens (NFT). Take a deep breath.

We saw that the metaverse is a spatial environment that mimics the real world by providing virtual social possibilities and simultaneously incorporating some gaming or simulation type of experiences for players to enjoy. Three dimensional shared realities, like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have historically been reserved to the gaming industry. Chasing Pokemons outdoors, dressing up avatars, playing e-sports and participating in e-tournaments, buying and selling real estate on Second Life are all activities familiar to generations X, Y, and Z.

These experiences can be created either by developers, like the Battle Royale and Save the World modes in Fortnite, or they can be generated by users through the Creative and Party Royale modes in Fortnite, or through general user experiences in the game Roblox.

In the case Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc1 the plaintiffs Epic Games and Mr. Sweeney said their plans for Fortnite and its metaverse involved shifting the video game from primarily relying on the former modes (i.e., developer designed, traditionally gaming, and competitive modes) to the latter modes (i.e., social and creative modes), where users-becoming-creators would themselves be rewarded and enriched. 

In these shared realities, the need to trade in virtual assets itself gave rise to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) [2], such as crypto-currencies and other tokenized blockchain assets, ranging from “moments” and basketball cards to wearables and art collectibles with many eccentric derivatives thereof[3]. Over the past decade, NFTs progressively integrated mainstream economy[4], in many cases replacing hard currencies[5]. For example, Second Life’s Linden Coin can also be traded in the real world, outside of Second Life.

Non fungible tokens are minted in the same way crypto currencies are, through a specific wallet in the blockchain. In the case of Fashion Week on Decentraland, creations were minted in the Ethereum blockchain (ETC) that one could easily access through a Metamask wallet.

Copyright in NFT\’s functions in exact the same way as in traditional copying of original works. You need consent from the holder (licence) of each copyrightable object. For discussions on NFT trademark protection, I recommend reading the World Intellectual Property Review WIPR issue 2 2022.

[1] Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. United States District Court, N.D. California. September 10, 2021— F.Supp.3d —-2021 WL 4128925 currently appealed, stay granted pending appeal 2021 WL 6755197, 2021-2 Trial Tr. (Sweeney) 325:14–17. Mr. Sweeney acknowledged that the film Ready Player One contains a recent portrayal of an imagined and futuristic, albeit dystopian, metaverse.  Id. 325:10. Mr. Sweeney also cited the book Snow Crash as an example of the depicted metaverse, which he remarked “describes this emerging social entertainment medium that transcends gaming.” Id. 325:24–326:1.

[2] A Non-Fungible Token is a token stored on the blockchain, which itself is a secure distributed database with redundancy, immutability, and clarity into tracking data or ownership.

[3] Richard LAWLER, \”Nike just bought a virtual shoe company that makes NFTs and sneakers for the metaverse\”, The Verge, Dec 13, 2021;; See also Basquiat and Grimes.

[4] The value of one Bitcoin went up from $13 in 2013 to over $50,000$ in February 2022. Then \”crashed\” to 30,000 in April.

[5] Greece for example.