U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and U.S. Copyright Office conclude joint study on non-fungible tokens

The Offices concluded that existing statutory enforcement mechanisms are currently sufficient to address infringement concerns related to NFT applications.
Press Release

CONTACT: (Media Only) 

Mandy Kraft, USPTO
Anjana Padmanabhan, USCO

WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Copyright Office (collectively the “Offices”) published the results of their joint study on the intellectual property (IP) law and policy implications of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The Offices conducted the study in response to a June 2022 request from then-Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Thom Tillis.

During the joint study, the Offices solicited public comments via a notice of inquiry, held three public roundtables, and examined existing literature and case law. 

In their report, the Offices acknowledged commenters’ views that NFTs may enable artists to secure remuneration for downstream resales of their works, aid trademark owners in expanding their brand appeal, and play a supportive role in the management, transfer, or licensing of IP rights. They also recognized concerns that buyers and sellers do not know what IP rights are implicated in the creation, marketing, and transfer of NFTs, and that NFTs may be used to facilitate copyright or trademark infringement. 

The Offices concluded, however, that existing statutory enforcement mechanisms are currently sufficient to address infringement concerns related to NFT applications, and that changes to IP laws, or to the Offices’ registration and recordation practices, are not necessary or advisable at this time. Rather, public education initiatives and product transparency play an important role in ensuring greater awareness and understanding about NFTs.

“NFTs offer unique opportunities for creators to leverage their IP rights, but also present new challenges in keeping their work secure,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “At the USPTO, we continue to work side-by-side with industry and government collaborators such as the Copyright Office to better understand the IP implications of these evolving technologies through initiatives such as our Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies (AI/ET) Partnership. We look forward to continuing these efforts and our ongoing work to ensure USPTO’s practices and U.S. policy evolve to address emerging technologies so that we best serve the needs of our nation’s creators and innovators.” 

“We are pleased to share the results of our joint study with Congress, stakeholders, and the public,” said Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office. “The report reflects extensive input from a broad spectrum of commenters, including creators, brand owners, innovators, academics, and practitioners. We look forward to continuing to engage with stakeholders on emerging technologies and implications for IP rights.”

The full study is available on the USPTO’s website and the Copyright Office’s website.