On the 1st of January 2024, the 12th edition of the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks (the "Nice Classification") entered into force. The revised Nice Classification aims to reflect modern advancements and societal trends and now includes terms related to crypto-assets transactions and virtual reality among others.

The Nice Classification is an international system of classification used for the purpose of registering trademarks, which contains a list of 45 classes of goods and services under which trademark creators can classify their mark to distinguish it from other competitors in the same class of goods and services. Up until recently, only physical goods and real-world services were included in the Nice Classification, leaving the metaverse an unregulated territory when it comes to branding protection.

By virtue of the new amendments, trademarks associated with non-physical items which are intended to be used in virtual settings, as well as services provided through online environments can now be registered to protect the proprietary rights of their creators.

Much like real world goods, when registering a trademark for virtual goods and services, applicants will need to specify the nature, use and function of the goods and services to which the mark applies. Downloadable virtual clothing (class 9) and simulated travel services provided in virtual environments for entertainment purposes (class 41) are among the specific virtual goods and services which are now included in the Nice Classification.

When it comes to NFTs, these are to be classified in accordance with the goods they authenticate. NFTs are unique tokens which digitally certify the ownership of assets; therefore, their registration should be in relation to the particular assets they certify. For instance, an NFT authenticating the ownership of a digital art piece can be registered under the class 9 good of downloadable digital image files authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs]. Other classes in the Nice Classification which allow for the registration of an NFT as a trademark include class 9 downloadable digital music files authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs] and class 25 clothing authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs].

The recent amendments represent a crucial step forward opening up opportunities for creators and businesses to protect their virtual assets. The 2024 Nice Classification is available to view on the WIPO website and we expect more information and guidance to be published in the end of Q1 of 2024.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.