How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in the Metaverse TechRadar

Will people ever live in a 24/7 digital world? Nobody knows for sure, but the metaverse is certainly growing. As the world dives deeper into the digital realm, businesses need guidance on how to protect their assets and intellectual property (IP).

Consider the top 10 the most expensive NFTs in the world all sold for over $6 million each. In January 2022, 2.4 million NFTs sold on OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace in the world. This represents a million more NFT transactions compared to December 2021. (On the other hand, some warn that the the bubble can burst.) The rise of NFTs is proof that digital artworks have real value, and that’s big business. Some even make millions design outfits for your avatar.

Yet other more common digital business assets also exist, and they all require protection. Think patents, copyrights, trademarks, franchises, customer databases and trade secrets. Intellectual property could also include development code for a new innovative application. This leaves many wondering how to protect intellectual property rights in the innovation process.

Given the constant threat of cybercrime, valuable assets require strong security, both from a legal and technical perspective.

What requires IP protection?

The St. Francis School of Law provides this list of examples of intellectual property:

  • Patents
  • Domain names
  • Industrial design
  • Confidential information
  • inventions
  • Moral rights
  • Database rights
  • Author’s works
  • Memorandums
  • Logos
  • Trademarks
  • Design rights
  • Business or Trade Names
  • Trade secrets
  • Software.

It’s as if anything that can be scanned, written or drawn could be IP. But if it’s digital, it can also be copied and stolen. And as metaverse plans expand, that risk will only increase. For example, in January 2022, artist Aja Trier was shocked to discover that her Van Gogh-style paintings had been transformed into nearly 86,000 unauthorized NFTs offered for sale on OpenSea.

What if someone decides to copy-paste tons of code your team wrote for a groundbreaking new app? Remember the insider threat incident at Tesla? An employee was accused of modifying the company’s operating system code under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive data to unknown third parties.

These real incidents are sure to continue. The best protection combines legal and technical countermeasures.

Although intellectual property protection is a broad topic, some basic strategies apply. For example, start by compiling a list of your digital assets. These may include:

  • Websites and Apps
  • Social media accounts
  • Customer information / customer databases
  • Proprietary digital business tools and processes
  • Photos, videos and images
  • Everything related to copyright, trademarks and patents.

From there, work with your legal team to determine where the property has been legally established. Another part of this listing process includes finding a benchmark for digital assets. IP value can come into play for any dispute over digital asset theft or fraud, or even for merger and acquisition negotiations.

Now let’s take a closer look at some specific examples of how to protect intellectual property rights.

NFT Intellectual Property Protection

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique blockchain-based token consisting of a string of digital references to a specific intangible asset. The asset can be a digital file that encodes music, art, video, icons, GIFs, or any other digital product.

NFT give creators a way to control the sale, display and/or reproduction of digital assets. Since NFTs reside in smart contracts with programmable self-executing commands, the creator can program a “resale right” into all subsequent sales of the NFT. This fee is paid each time the NFT changes hands. It allows creators to monetize their work without third parties, such as private galleries or music distributors.

Any digital asset must be uploaded to a hosting platform before the NFT can be minted for trading. It is essential to opt for a reputable platform with strict IP policies. Policies should emphasize unauthorized downloading and mining of NFTs, including a clear “takedown” approach when an infringement is found.

Software development Intellectual property protection

Have you ever wondered how to protect intellectual property rights in the innovation process? When it comes to software development, protecting your assets starts with documentation. Doing this right serves two purposes. First, it makes the development process neater, easier to follow, and keeps efforts aligned with business goals. It also helps protect intellectual property rights.

If someone steals your software and tries to sell it as their own, they won’t have proof of development. But if you’ve clearly documented your development journey, that’s strong evidence of ownership.

Also, for larger projects, it makes sense to separate teams, even geographically if possible. Restrict access so no one can steal or sabotage the entire project.

Other IP Protection Tips

Here are some general tips on how to protect your intellectual property:

  • Partners, employees, freelancers, clients and consultants must all sign strong and well-defined non-disclosure agreements
  • Apply for copyrights (for original artistic expressions or works of authorship), trademarks (for brand names, symbols or logos) and patents (for unique methods and things)
  • Avoid co-ownership of intellectual property which could lead to future confusion or conflict
  • Leverage impostor detection methodology which includes AI-based threat mapping to detect threat actors stealing your IP address (fake websites, unauthorized sales, counterfeit products, social media imposters, etc. ).

Powerful access control protects your IP address

Although some assets can be cut and pasted or counterfeited, many types of intellectual property theft only occur if malicious actors enter your systems and networks. This is why robust access control is imperative to protect intellectual property. For example, if you implement organization-wide least-privilege access, a given user has only least-privilege access.

According to CISA, least privilege means “only the minimum necessary privileges should be assigned to a subject requesting access to a resource and should be in effect for the shortest time necessary (remember to waive privileges).”

Least privilege is a key feature of identity and access management (IAM), which is a broader way to manage access security. For large enterprises, least privilege can be difficult to manage given the number of users accessing different systems. Additionally, the level of access granted to any user at any given time may vary depending on their role.

Adaptive Access solves the issue of privilege variation by checking access variables on an ongoing basis. IAM software leverages machine learning and AI to analyze parameters such as user, device, activity, environment, and behavior. A comprehensive and adjustable risk score then determines whether or not to grant access.

Future-proof your IP security

Strong intellectual property protection is essential for any brand or organization. Securing your assets is now more important than ever. Even if we find ourselves completely immersed in the metaverse, your IP security will continue to protect your digital assets.

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How to Protect Your Intellectual Property in the Metaverse TechRadar

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