Yesterday, the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a joint study on IP issues related to NFTs. This follows a Congressional request by senators Leahy and Tillis that the Offices explore these issues. Today, the Offices will publish a Notice of Inquiry (unpublished version can be found here), with a notice-and-comment period to follow, seeking stakeholder/private industry feedback on the following topics:

  • Current/proposed uses of NFTs in industry
  • Any IP-related challenges and opportunities associated with NFTs
  • The impact of NFTs on production of materials protected by IP rights
  • The uses of NFTs (and challenges of using NFTs) to document authenticity of goods, transfer assets, obtain IP rights, transfer/license IP rights, manage digital rights, facilitate royalty payments, and enforce IP rights
  • Use cases for protection of NFT-related IP rights and enforcement against infringement associated with NFTs
  • Any gaps in IP laws with respect to protection of IP rights in relation to NFTs and what, if any, legislation should be considered
  • Examples of NFT-related IP disputes (e.g., involving transfers/licensing of IP rights in connection with the sale of NFTs, involving NFT creation based on owned or licensed rights, or involving IP protection for NFT creators that do not own an asset associated with the NFT)
  • The operation of the DMCA notice-and-takedown system in the context of NFTs, and other IP-related takedowns involving NFTs
  • IP portfolio adjustments in view of the emergence of NFTs
  • Experiences involving IP protection for (or use of) assets associated with NFTs outside the United States

The Notice will likely set deadlines for submission of public comments in advance of the USPTO-hosted roundtables on patents (Tuesday January 10, 2023) and trademarks (Thursday, January 12, 2023) and USCO-hosted roundtable on copyrights (Wednesday, January 18, 2023).