Retailers Can Make the Blockchain Work for Them in IP


The intersection of retail gross sales and blockchain expertise is a present “sizzling” subject. However what does this really imply for retailers? Is the money and time wanted to spend money on new expertise value the price? What mental property (IP) safety is accessible?

First, a non-fungible token (NFT) is a singular and non-interchangeable unit of knowledge saved on a blockchain. NFTs will be related to reproducible digital information, akin to pictures, movies, and audio. NFTs use a digital ledger to supply a public certificates of authenticity or proof of possession, however don’t limit the sharing or copying of the underlying digital information. The shortage of interchangeability (fungibility) distinguishes NFTs from fungible digital belongings, akin to Bitcoin. NFTs can symbolize many issues, starting from buying and selling playing cards to plots of digital land to digital artwork to digital vogue, simply to call just a few.

Importantly, NFTs typically contain the show and/or switch of varied types of IP, and lift the identical varieties of issues—e.g., trademark, copyright, and right-of-publicity—as every other industrial endeavor utilizing probably protected content material, together with points associated to clearance, registration, licensing, switch, and enforcement.


The immutable nature of blockchain supplies a historical past of possession and creation that can not be tampered with. That is crucial to an IP proprietor—akin to a retailer with a portfolio of patents, emblems, and copyrights defending its model—because it prevents one other individual or entity from contesting a declare to possession.

Sensible contracts with blockchain expertise add a layer of safety and can be utilized by retailers to supply licenses or get hold of royalties to IP. Certainly, the addition of sensible contracts has elevated the utility of implementing blockchain to guard one’s IP. Sensible contracts stay on the blockchain and carry out actions, akin to permitting entry to the data saved on the block, when sure circumstances are met. By utilizing this performance, a retailer IP proprietor can grant licenses to customers who wish to entry the IP by accepting that consumer’s digital signature. Sensible contracts may also be utilized to gather royalties from people who find themselves utilizing and accessing IP by establishing a contract.

As well as, blockchain and decentralized techniques might help retailers drive effectivity with provide chain and stock administration. Many firms use a blockchain to authenticate, monitor, or keep possession and restore data for his or her bodily merchandise. Blockchain expertise can present retailers with different advantages, too, together with diminished prices, elevated transparency, and quicker transactions. And it can lead to improved safety by lowering counterfeiting and fraud, points that generally come up in trademark litigation.

NFTs function a really actual alternative for manufacturers and retailers. A model—or trademark—is a phrase, title, image, design, or phrase used to establish and distinguish a services or products, and to point the supply of the services or products. Manufacturers like Pringles and Taco Bell have already issued and offered NFTs as a technique to promote their manufacturers and merchandise to youthful audiences. Extra just lately, Basic Mills auctioned 10 digital artworks as NFTs to advertise the return of its chocolate-flavored Dunkaroos, a preferred snack model that was discontinued in 2012 within the US.

NFT functions vary from authenticating tangible items to lowering friction in e-commerce to producing new income by means of digital gross sales—the probabilities are infinite. NFTs have come thus far that they’re now making their approach into bodily shops, for instance, an NFT gallery with digital wall shows, and bodily and digital merchandise on the market. Dolce & Gabbana staged an NFT set up in one in every of its flagship shops, and Rebecca Minkoff held an NFT exhibition for New York Vogue Week.

Finally, as cryptocurrency and NFTs develop into increasingly well-liked, retailer use of the blockchain will seemingly develop into the rule, somewhat than the exception. Venturing into these new applied sciences presents points concerning IP safety. For instance, creating an NFT doesn’t itself set up copyright safety in a specific piece of IP. As a substitute, it supplies a verifiable possession declare to that model or copy. Equally, firms ought to think about whether or not their present IP, e.g., emblems, cowl their model utilization in NFTs. It might be {that a} retailer might want to file for added emblems to say the related lessons of products and companies concerned with such utilization.

Total, retailers could be smart to start investing in these applied sciences, however ought to be conscious that they current questions for model house owners to think about and probably focus on with counsel previous to taking motion.

Copyright © 2022, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. All Rights Reserved.Nationwide Regulation Evaluate, Quantity XII, Quantity 32

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