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Tom Polcyn talks to Thomson Reuters’ ‘Technologist’ about the Metaverse

August 12, 2022

Thompson Coburn IP Chair Tom Polcyn talked all things Metaverse in a recent video interview with Joseph Raczynski, a Technologist/Futurist for the Thompson Reuters news organization. Their discussion took place during a July 26 episode of Joseph’s “Tech Snippets Today” program

Tom was invited on the program following Thompson Coburn’s announcement that it was among the first major U.S. law firms to apply for trademark protection for the Firm’s brand in the Metaverse. Tom talked to Joe about the thinking behind the Firm’s decision to seek trademark protection in the Metaverse.

“We have a nice mechanism in place under the law in our brick and mortar world for dealing with infringing trademarks and avoiding consumer confusion,” said Tom. “But what happens when someone misuses a brand owner’s mark in the Metaverse or some other virtual realm? We don’t think there’s an emergency to run out and do something different. That being said, this is an evolving space with an uncertain future. So, for a number of clients we have filed trademark applications that put a metaverse twist on their real world goods and services.”

“In fact, we too have filed a trademark application to register the Thompson Coburn brand in connection with legal services provided in the Metaverse, even though we’ve had our name registered for traditional legal services for many years. Will that eventual registration provide us with additional rights we didn’t already have? That remains to be seen, but filing trademark applications is a relatively inexpensive exercise and we really saw no downside to pursuing it as this new marketplace continues to emerge.”

While acknowledging that legal practitioners and corporations are just starting to think about the legal implications of doing business in the Metaverse, Tom said the dawn of the Internet some 30 years ago provides possible guidance for how real-world laws can apply to virtual-world interactions. 

“Ninety-nine percent of the laws and rules we have to take care of things in the brick and mortar world have worked out just fine in the Internet age,” Tom said. “There are some twists that initially weren’t predictable, and there were things that the courts and the legislature had to address. I think the same thing will happen with the Metaverse.”

Tom also shared thoughts on the possibility of Thompson Coburn opening an office in a virtual world. “We don’t have any imminent plans to open an office in the Metaverse,” he said. “But that day could come. It really depends on where our clients take us and where they want to see us and interact with us.”