Trademarks in Virtual Worlds: Law, Outlaws or New in-Laws?

Katja Weckström


Internet service providers are on the agenda, when considering their involvement in and responsibility for infringement of trademark rights. The keyword advertising by search engines and the activity of internet auction sites constitute the top of the iceberg, while the use of trademarks on social network sites and particularly in virtual worlds are up and coming issues. While the first two are entering trademark law through the door of criminally sanctioned trademark counterfeiting, there is no trade in physical goods in virtual worlds. The issue of trademark infringement might be raised, when virtual goods replicating physical goods are sold in-world under someone else's trademark. Similarly, the use of service marks for competing services seems like free-riding. But who owns rights in trademarks in virtual worlds? This article explores the channelling of real world trademark law into virtual worlds and highlights some aspects that merit consideration.

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