Category Archives: Intellectual property

NFTs and Intellectual Property: An Overview in Three Parts (Part two of three)

woman in front of digital tech

In the first part of our series on NFTs,[1] we discussed what an NFT is and what “ownership” of an NFT provides.  You’ll recall that a non-fungible token is a unique blockchain-based “token” that consists of a chain of digital references to a specific intangible asset (e.g., digital files encoding music, art, video, icons, etc.). 

In this instalment, we consider what NFTs could mean for IP rights creators, owners, and users.

Part 2: NFTs and IP Law

As discussed in part 1, the purchaser of an NFT cannot automatically claim ownership over the underlying digital asset, or any rights to that asset. What is acquired is simply the ability to exclusively transfer the NFT’s ownership status. What, therefore, is the value of NFTs to creators, holders, or users of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in those digital assets? Surely the NFT’s owner is the only person who can display, download or access the digital work?  Not surprisingly, the answer is not as simple as many would like.

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NFTs, Intellectual Property and Art: An Overview in Three Parts

woman in front of digital tech

Earlier this year, something called an “NFT” sold for $69 million USD at auction.[1] This was likely the first time most people had ever heard the term “NFT.” From that point forward, discussions of various NFTs were everywhere; as a result, they entered mainstream consciousness, much like Bitcoin had nearly ten years ago. In fact, NFT or “non-fungible token” was named word of the year for 2021.[2]

Artists, musicians, and other creatives now saw in their work the potential for monetization. Investors woke up to the value of digital art assets. Indeed, in the first half of 2021, NFT transactions totalled in the billions.

Despite their near ubiquity, it is unclear to many what NFTs are and what role they play in the digital marketplace.  Just as it may be unwise for investors, collectors, and creators to ignore the burgeoning NFT industry, it may be equally unwise for those same people to ignore potential issues arising from this new asset class.  Even more unclear is what, if anything, these new digital assets mean for the users and owners of intellectual property (“IP”) rights. 

This series of articles tries to demystify NFTs and discuss what impact they may have for creators, users, and owners of IP rights. We aim to shed light on the intersection of technology, the creative industries, and IP law that arises with NFTs.

In our first article, we will discuss the nature of NFTs. In our second article, we will discuss the impact of NFTs on IP rights holders. In our final article, we will discuss the applicability of NFTs in the world of digital art.

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Registering your trademark abroad: Is the Madrid Protocol the best strategy?

Three Canadian flags in front of a business building in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, and one of the main economic, political and business hubs of North America

The Madrid Protocol is celebrating its second anniversary in Canada! Since it came into effect on June 17, 2019, Canadian businesses have more than one string to their bow to protect their trademarks in Canada and internationally. This is the first article in the series on the Madrid Protocol in Canada; it will focus specifically on international filings made by Canadian companies.

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Promoting Canadian Intellectual Property on World Intellectual Property Day

Today, April 26th, is World Intellectual Property Day.  This year’s theme is shining a light on the critical role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the economy and how they can use intellectual property (“IP”) to build stronger, more competitive and resilient businesses.

On April 19th, 2021, the Canadian government released its first budget under the COVID pandemic (“Budget 2021”).  Budget 2021 addresses the Government of Canada’s fight against COVID-19 and its desire to ensure a robust economic recovery.  As part of the latter, Canada is investing in innovation.

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Cloud Contracts: The Impact of Common Terms of Service Provisions on Intellectual Property Rights

light bulb cloud

Many people have a great deal of digital content stored “in the cloud”, often through email, social media platforms, file storage and other related services. Whether it is the storage of user-created content, such as photos, videos or documents, or content that users pay to access, such as music and e-books, the use of such services is governed by the Terms of Service (“ToS”)[1] of the relevant company (“online service provider”).  

Despite the often monetary or emotional value of such user-created content, ToS tend to be contracts of adhesion; if a person wants to use an online service provider, they generally have no option but to agree to that online service provider’s ToS. As ToS are almost always unilaterally-generated contracts where the individual has no negotiating power vis-à-vis the online service provider, the reality is that most people usually accept ToS without actually reading them. As a result, many are unaware of how the ToS affect their rights to the accounts with these service providers and the content stored in association with them, or the rights their heirs might have in this regard after they die.[2] This is particularly the case for an individual’s copyright with respect to the content that they create through or store with the online service provider.

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