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Bryan E. Kuhn
Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

Can virtual goods be considered intellectual property?

There is no doubt that the world is becoming more technologically-savvy, and the business environment in Colorado and worldwide is turning to online and virtual solutions to real-world issues. Online communities are growing, Internet products are thriving and ideas are being shared faster than ever before. With so much happening online, there is also a shift in traditional types of intellectual property.

When people talk about intellectual property, they are generally referring to creations of the mind. This can include copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets. A recent report in Forbes explores how these types of IP are also being created virtually, and discusses whether they have real-world value or not.

According to the article, which looks at online gaming as an example, virtual IP is being created all the time in massively multiplayer online games, which are online games that support thousands of players and can include different worlds created by users. So from a person developing economic models to govern specific game play to a user designing a building that appears in a virtual gaming scene, these are pieces of IP that are being created by individuals.

The fact that users are developing their own online experience using their own symbols, software and graphics ends up making ownership of the IP a point of discussion. Much like other expanding businesses, online gaming is a worldwide experience. The experiences are so intertwined between countries that it can be difficult to unravel which material belongs to which party. Historically, the makers of the game would own everything, but with users now able to create their own virtual worlds and goods, the lines become increasingly blurred.

Innovations that are developed online and in virtual worlds are quickly becoming more and more valuable. Taking an in-game product and creating real-world ownership and value is a challenge that many business owners and individuals will likely come up against in the near future.

Source: Forbes, “Online Games And Crowdsourced Creativity: The Next Frontier In Intellectual Property,” John Villasenor, Dec. 31, 2012

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