The Law Institute of Victoria hosted an event “Intellectual Property – Merging IP law boundaries with virtual reality” on 28 May 2009. Speaker Karen Hallenstein, Supervising Counsel at Telstra, looked at brand issues arising from virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kaneva, Active Worlds, There, Lively and Habbo.
Advances in information technology and the internet enable us to distribute more information to more people in less time. This provides enormous commercial opportunities for businesses but at the same time, creates significant risk of intellectual property infringement.
Businesses use internet applications such as virtual worlds or computer based simulated environments to market or test their products, Twitter or Facebook to increase their market profile. Brand infringers may prevent brand owners from realising the full potential that the internet offers by diverting income generated from the use of the brand, passing off inferior quality products as the original product or blocking brand owners from using their brand by registering the brands as user id’s thus preventing the brand owner from registering their brand.
The options available to the trademark owner are: contact the network/internet provider to seek removal of the infringing account; institute legal proceedings; offer to purchase the registered domain name/user id; or depending on the jurisdiction, report the infringement to a regulating authority. The time and cost consequences to the brand owner may be significant.
Brand infringement impacts not only the trademark owner, but it also impacts the buyer/user who may believe that they are transacting with or buying the genuine product and the internet service provider who seeks to attract users by ensuring that the transactions are safe and regulated.