A Joint Study on Implications of NFTs

The U.S Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently published a joint study (“Non-Fungible Tokens and Intellectual Property – A Report to Congress”) to evaluate if the existing laws are adequate to address the infringement issues associated with Non-Fungible Token (NFT).

The work of the U.S Copyright Office and the U.S Patent and Trademark Office 

Due to the sudden surge of NFTs, many concerns have arisen regarding intellectual property rights and copyright infringement. To answer, the U.S Offices sought public comments on such topics through a Federal Register Notice, announced a series of public roundtables and examined in detail the doctrine and the existing case-law.

The answer of the public was impressive, with participation of a broad spectrum of commentators, among whom trademarks owners, innovators, scholars and industry professionals.

The advantages and problems of NFTs

NFTs are presented as a great opportunity for creators and inventors as they allow to guarantee a compensation for the sale of their works. Nevertheless, NFT technology foreshadows copyrights issues similar to those already known. As a matter of fact, if a NFT contains a copyright protected but unauthorized work, the disclosure and marketing of that NFT will be infringing copyright law.

In the same way, NFTs allow trademark owners to reach new consumers through virtual goods and services. The transactions registered on blockchain networks can provide evidence of origin of the goods and contribute to fight counterfeiting. Nevertheless, there are risks connected to the infringement of the misuse of trademarks on NFTs markets and there are not identification and removal mechanisms for these unlawful contents.

In the patent field, blockchain technology and NFTs give the chance to transfer complete information on patents at a low cost, as well as to manage the rights on the invention, collect royalties and sell patents.

The results of the joint study

Despite the risks underlying this type of tool, the study shows that the existing laws are sufficient to face the infringement issues brought by NFTs and it would be premature, at this time, to issue new laws focused specifically on this topic, or to modify the Office’s registration practices, as it is a dynamic and evolving matter.

More attentions, however, should be paid to enhance public education initiatives on the world of Non-Fungible Token, in order to guarantee a higher awareness and understanding of these tools.


Tania Giampieri