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Trademark practice - An Overview of “Metaverse” Trademark Applications
Time: 2022-08-24

Trademark practice - An Overview of “Metaverse” Trademark Applications

Written by Zhang Huiyu | Aug 24 2022

The term “metaverse” first appeared in the science fiction novel Snow Crash in 1992. The book depicted a gigantic virtual reality world and mentioned the notions of “metaverse” and “avatar”. People can have avatars in the virtual world called “metaverse”. The year 2021 became the first year of metaverse, and the concept of “metaverse” has soared in popularity since then. All types of industries started to add “metaverse” to their commercial planning and trademark layout, and applying for trademarks containing the term “metaverse” to seize business opportunities. Since 2021, however, a large number of such applications have been rejected, forcing companies to seek alternatives. It is worth noting that the trademark protection in the field of metaverse does not merely refer to protect the term “metaverse” itself as a trademark, it covers the protection of trademarks/brands in the commercial activities conducted in the field of metaverse. The following is an overview of the status quo and layout of “metaverse” trademark applications.  

Ⅰ The Status Quo of the Applications of Metaverse-related Trademarks

According to China Trademark Office’s database, the first two trademark applications for “元宇宙” (metaverse in Chinese chatacters) were filed on March 3, 2021 in Classes 9 and 35. The application in class 35 was rejected. 

As of today, there are two registered trademarks containing the term “元宇宙” (metaverse), which are “汉高元宇宙天空之城” (Hangao Metaverse City of Sky) in Class 35 (filed on October 28, 2020 and registered on August 21, 2021), and “汉高元宇宙天空之城” (Hangao Metaverse City of Sky) in Class 41 (filed on October 28, 2020 and registered on June 28, 2021).

Ⅱ Status of Trademarks Containing the Term “元宇宙” (metaverse)

According to our research, applications for trademark “多元宇宙” (multiverse) filed before 2021 were approved for registration, while those filed after 2021 were rejected by the Trademark Office. The applications for trademarks containing the term “元宇宙” (metaverse) were rejected mainly due to the following two reasons:

1.The trademark applications were rejected in accordance with Article 30 of the Trademark Law, where a trademark application does not comply with the relevant provisions of this Law, or is identical with or similar to the trademark of another party, in respect of the same or similar goods, that has been registered or preliminarily approved after examination, its registration shall be refused by the Trademark Office and the mark shall not be published. For example, the application for trademark “元宇宙” (metaverse) was rejected because it is similar to “元气宇宙” (vitality universe). 

2.The trademark applications were rejected in accordance with the circumstances referred to in Article 10(i) (7) of the Trademark Law, i.e., those having fraudulence, which will easily mislead the public as to the features such as qualities of the goods, or the places of the origins shall be rejected. The following cases are examples.

  1. a)The trademarks “跳动元宇宙” (beating metaverse) designating goods/ services in Classes 28, 35, 38, 42, and 45 were rejected because the use of the trademarks will likely confuse the consumers about the content, function, usage or other characteristics of the goods/services. 
  2. b)The Trademarks “虚视界元宇宙” (virtual horizon metaverse) in Classes 9 and 42 were rejected for containing the term “元宇宙” (metaverse), which refers to a new digital technology of the future, featuring low latency, immersiveness, and real-time performance. Use of the trademarks on the designated goods/ services will easily cause confusion among the consumers regarding the techniques or other characteristics of the goods/services, which constitutes a situation referred to in Article 10 (i) (7) of the Trademark Law. 

The facts above implied that the Trademark Office interprets the “metaverse” as a new digital technology of the future. However, there is no precise definition of “metaverse” at present. Experts, scholars, and entrepreneurs in different fields may have different interpretations. 

A few trademarks starting with “元宇宙” (metaverse) were preliminarily published for opposition. The following three situations occurred subsequently:

1.Oppositions were filed against the trademark applications.

2.Following declaration of the Publication Notices to be invalid, the Office issued Trademark Refusal Notices.

3.Notices of Trademark Refusal were issued by the Office after it announced invalidation of the Publication Notices and Registration Notices (1).   

The Trademark Office has the right to take the initiative to declare invalidation of the Publication Notices or Registration Notices in accordance with the relevant legal provisions with the purpose of closing the loopholes in the examination process. Before 2021, trademarks containing “metaverse” were approved for registration due to the limited perceptions of the term. However, as the examination and review of trademark applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, previous trademark registration approvals cannot be taken as a basis for the registrations of current trademark applications. 

As the concept of “metaverse” keeps developing and changing, even if the Trademark Office approves applications of trademarks containing the term “metaverse”, it may not be able to guarantee that metaverse-related technologies are applied to the goods/services designated by the approved trademarks or that consumers can experience metaverse-related services. Consumers are being defrauded when goods/services fail to display the technical characteristics of metaverse. From this perspective, it is reasonable for the Trademark Office to take proactive measures to refuse or invalidate trademarks containing the term “metaverse”.  

Ⅲ Trademark Layout in the Field of Metaverse

Considering the status quo of trademark examination by the Trademark Office, it is not recommended that applicants add the term “metaverse” into their trademarks. For entrepreneurs who attach importance to the development in the field of metaverse and hope to reap profits in the emerging field, it is necessary to consider trademark layout in advance. 

It is worth noting that the trademark protection in the field of metaverse should focus on the commercial activities. As summarized by Professor Shen Yang of the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, metaverse covers a very wide range of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, digital twin, blockchain, cloud computing, extended reality, robotics, brain-computer interfaces, and 5G. 

It is recommended that entrepreneurs improve their trademark layout and develop sub-brands in the “metaverse-related” area basing on their original brands. Likewise, they can also plan and create new brands in the field of metaverse. For example, Baidu Online Network Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd., with “Baidu” being its core brand, has newly created a brand “希壤” (XI RANG) for their metaverse-related goods/services. The following are suggestions on the selection of trademark types and goods/services in the field of metaverse. 

1.When using terminals with metaverse technology to access the virtual reality spaces, three-dimensional virtual images may be needed. As for Trademark, constituent elements continue to be text, graphics, letters, numbers, three-dimensional signs, color combinations, sounds, and etc., as well as combinations of these elements. However, the boundaries of reality can be broken and things that are not possible in the physical world can be achieved in the metaverse. Unconventional types of trademarks, such as color combinations, three-dimensional signs, and sound trademarks, may be more appealing to the public. 

2.Focusing on technology research and development in the field of metaverse. The development of metaverse requires key technologies, infrastructure, and applicable software. It is worth to consider “technology research, cloud computing, computer programming, computer hardware design and development consulting, design and development of virtual display software, design and development of virtual private network (VPN) operating software” etc. in Class 42.

3.It is advisable to develop the trademark layout centering on the machinery used to produce terminal equipment for implement of the metaverse technology as well as the terminal equipment itself—the popularization of the terminal equipment applying the metaverse technology is essential for the development of the metaverse industry. Through some terminal devices, users can experience education, entertainment, and cultural tourism offered by the metaverse. It is recommended that entrepreneurs select goods like “head-mounted virtual reality devices, smart glasses (data processing), headsets for virtual reality games” in Class 9 and “smart toys” in Class 28. Meanwhile, it is advisable for entrepreneurs who produce machinery and equipment used in the manufacture of metaverse-related terminal devices to select Class 7. For example, “computer chips” and “semiconductor chips” belong to Class 9, but “semiconductor chip manufacturing equipment” and “memory chip manufacturing machine” belong to Class 7. 

4.The metaverse industry can meet the requirements of basic social functions. Socializing is valued in the metaverse, as can be seen from the current development plans of Internet giants in the area. For example, the Soul App is the first in the industry to propose a “social metaverse” in early 2021. In the development of the metaverse industry, entrepreneurs should consider the social functions in virtual spaces and “online chat rooms for social networks” in Class 38, as well as “online social networking services” in Class 45.

5.As various industries will be upgraded and integrated with the metaverse, entrepreneurs from different industries like services, manufacturing and agriculture can select the appropriate trademark classes for application according to specific needs.

  1. a)The service industry. For example, Class 35 is recommended for sales promotion of products from various merchants by virtual humans in the virtual spaces of the metaverse. Services in Class 41 are recommended for virtual display classes, museum virtual reality exhibitions, and sports events, concerts, films, and television entertainment with tangible interaction in virtual spaces of the metaverse. For the “metaverse” game industry, “virtual reality game software” and “headsets for virtual reality games” in Class 9, and “virtual reality game room services” and “providing online virtual reality games on computer networks” in Class 41, etc. are recommended.
  2. b)The manufacturing industry. For example, Class 7 should also be taken into consideration for producers of electronic industrial equipment who needs to build virtual production lines in the virtual spaces of the metaverse to promote the technology development and improvement of electronic industrial equipment, through the simulation of actual production situations basing on various technologies such as Digital Twin. Producers of machinery should also consider Class 7 for electronic industrial equipment and “technological research” services in Class 42.
  3. c)Agriculture industry. In agricultural research, for example, the weather conditions and soil environments during the production of crops can be simulated in the virtual spaces of the metaverse, and research data from the metaverse can be applied to the real crop cultivation, which facilitates the cultivation of fine crop varieties. Specific crop products in Class 31 and “agricultural research” services in Class 42 could be taken into account. 

Ⅳ Conclusion

With the advent of the “metaverse” era, enterprises should plan their trademarks and brands in the field of metaverse as early as possible to catch up with the trend. It is important to take evasive action to develop trademark layout in accordance with the law and avoid stepping over the lines of the Trademark Office. 


1.Baidu Baike—metaverse (an emerging concept). https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%85%83%E5%AE%87%E5%AE%99/58292530

2. What is the metaverse? Why should we pay attention to it? —decoding of the metaverse. http://bj.news.cn/2021-11/20/c_1128082017.htm

3. Scholars from Peking University released a START map of the characteristics and properties of the metaverse. https://it.gmw.cn/2021-11/19/content_35323118.htm

4. The Trademark Office of China National Intellectual Property Administration—integrated query of trademarks

5. The Trademark Office of China National Intellectual Property Administration—Trademark Review and Adjudication Instrument—Decision on the Review of Refusal for Trademark No. 55705235 “元宇宙” (metaverse)

6. Document from Baitu Trademark Inquiry Information System—Decision on Review of Refusal

Author: Zhang Huiyu

Trademark Attorney

After joining Jiaquan IP Law, Ms. Zhang is mainly responsible for providing trademark-related services for domestic clients, such as searching, giving advice, monitoring, trademark layout, review, opposition, and invalidation.


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