An Italian court handed Juventus FC a win in the most recent round of a legal scuffle over non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”). In an order this summer that was recently made final in lieu of an appeal, the Rome Court of First Instance granted the Turin-based football club’s bid for a preliminary injunction, barring Binance-hosted Blockeras s.r.l. from offering up NFTs that make use of the Italian club’s trademarks, including the Juventus and “Juve” word marks, as well as the design of its two-star-bearing black-and-white jersey. The court’s order follows from Juventus filing suit against Blockeras earlier this year, accusing the fantasy football game platform of infringing its trademarks by way of NFTs linked to trading cards featuring former Juventus player Christian “Bobo” Vieri. 

In what is being characterized as “the first known judgment by a European court holding that NFTs reproducing a third party’s trademarks without authorization” amount to trademark infringement and warrant an injunction, the Court of Rome held that by minting and selling 68 NFT cards (from which it generated nearly $36,000), Blockeras ran afoul of Juventus’ trademark rights. (While Blockeras entered into an agreement with Vieri to use his likeness for the cards, it did not receive authorization from Juventus to use its marks.) 

Some Notable Takeaways 

In determining that Blockeras’ use of the Juventus marks is likely to cause consumers to be confused about the nature/source of the NFTs, and thus, siding with Juventus, the Court of Rome provided a number of notable takeaways for players in the NFT space – shedding light on the extent to which NFT-specific registrations are necessary and the distinction between NFTs and the assets tied to them.  

Primarily, the court shot down Blockeras’ argument against an opposition, in which it asserted that an injunction should not be granted because, among other things, Juventus does not have registrations for the trademarks at issue for use on “downloadable virtual goods.” Unpersuaded, the court held that the Juventus trademarks are well known given that the club is the “the most successful Italian football team,” and as a result, it is not necessary to consider whether the marks are registered for use on “digital objects” or even more specifically, on “digital objects certified by NFT.” 

Vieri, Juventus digital trading card

Even if that were an issue, Juventus maintains registrations for its marks in Class 9 for use in connection with “digital downloadable publications,” which would suffice, according to the court. At the same time, the court also stated that Juventus “proved that it has become active in the field of … online games that are based on blockchain technologies and on the use of cryptocurrencies and/or NFTs through agreements with [global fantasy football game platform] Sorare.” (And beyond that, the court noted that the evidence on file shows the existence of “widespread merchandising activities [by Juventus] in various sectors (clothing, accessories, games) carried out online … with the use of the marks in question, and the company’s presence on the main social networks,” which also shows that it is using its marks in the digital world.)

The court’s determination here is in line with “the current mainstream approach that registration in Class 9 would [only] be required for non-well-known trademarks in order to obtain protection against infringing NFTs,” according to Trevisan & Cuonzo attorney Lorenzo Battarino. (It also mirrors our earlier arguments that despite a flood of companies rushing to file applications for registration for their marks in the quintessential metaverse classes, big-name brands likely do not need trademark registrations for goods/services that they are readily dealing in in the “real world.”) 

Another critical takeaway comes by way of the court distinguishing between NFTs – or digital tokens recorded on the blockchain – and the digital images that are commonly tied to NFTs. This can be seen in the language of the injunction, which prohibits Blockeras from, among other things, engaging in any further “production, marketing, promotion and offer for sale” of the NFTs, as well as “the digital contents associated therewith.” The scope of the injunction seems to suggest that the NFTs, themselves, “have legal autonomy as compared to the images or [other] data associated with them,” Battarino says. 

Some Broader Context: Other cases have paid a fair amount of attention to the potential token vs. token-tied-content dichotomy, with MetaBirkins creator Mason Rothschild, for example, arguing in response to the trademark complaint filed against him by Hermès that the NFTs, themselves, are merely a way to “authenticate” – and thus, are separate from – his artworks. StockX has similarly emphasized the difference between NFTs and any assets tied to them in the lawsuit waged against it by Nike. Meanwhile, Hermès has argued that its complaint is “about the NFTs, not necessarily the images associated with them.”

Reflecting on the court’s decision, which Blockeras did not appeal (it had already stopped marketing the NFTs), Battarino asserts that it “still leaves some questions open as to how such innovative orders may be effectively enforced by IP rights owners (e.g., in terms of the role of platforms hosting the infringing NFTs and related content, enforcement on the secondary market, assessment of damages, etc.).” Though, he states that there is “no doubt” that related litigation will arise and courts will inevitably be called on to resolve such outstanding issues. 

The case is Juventus F.C v. Blockeras s.r.l.., No. 32072/2022.

Some of the biggest fashion industry-specific news out of the United Nations’ COP27 came on Monday, with well-known companies ranging from Zara-owned Inditex and fellow fast-fashion retailer H&M to Gucci and Balenciaga’s parent company Kering announcing a commitment to collectively purchase 550,000 tons of “low-carbon, low-footprint alternative fibers” – such as agricultural residues and recycled textiles – for use in manufacturing “fashion textiles and paper packaging” in order to “support the protection of the world’s vital forests and ecosystems and lower forest degradation pressures from the fashion and packaging supply chains.” 

The newly announced initiative that brings together almost three dozen brands, printers, and producers, including Stella McCartney, Ben & Jerry’s, and HH Global, to name a few more, has garnered headlines. In a market filled with increasingly-climate-cognizant consumers, the effort boasts some notable environmental benefits: For every ton of alternative fibers used, “between four and 15 tons of carbon per ton of product” will be saved, environmental nonprofit Canopy, which is spearheading the effort, said in a statement early this week. In the same release, H&M Group’s head of resource use and circular impact Cecilia Stromblad Brannsten touted the project as helping the fast fashion giant to “mov[e] towards more sustainable alternatives for our materials, [which] plays a crucial role [in reducing] our absolute emissions by 56 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2040.” 

Meanwhile, Kering, which recently issued guidelines that focus on how its brands (and vendors) should approach green claims, released a broader statement. Yoann Régent, Head of Sustainable Sourcing & Nature Initiatives for the luxury group, said, “At Kering, we aim at reducing our footprint on biodiversity, and contribute to preserving and restoring critical ecosystems.”

Potential “Greenwashing” Pain Points

The alternative textiles effort comes as fashion industry entities face off against a seemingly rising amount of greenwashing allegations (and the threat of legal action as a result), with companies’ activities – and their marketing of themselves, their products/services, and their environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”)-centric initiatives – being examined not just on their face but from a bigger-picture perspective. After all, greenwashing does not merely refer to the use of unsubstantiated sustainability claims but also encompasses efforts by companies to market themselves and/or their products and ESG endeavors as having a greater positive environmental impact than they actually do. 

Against this background, there may be room for potential pushback when it comes to the Canopy-led fibers venture on at least a few fronts, which should serve as a takeaway for players in this space.

Primarily, there is the issue of scope. While the figures at play – from the 550,000 tons of low-carbon fibers to the savings of 4 to 15 tons of carbon – are noteworthy, the reality is, of course, more complex than meets the eye. As the Wall Street Journal’s Dieter Holger stated on Monday, “The planned purchase [of 550k tons of alternative fibers] represents only a small portion of [the companies’] total output.” It is an even smaller portion when viewed on a more macro scale: Global fiber production is expected to reach 130 million tons in 2025 – up from 85.5 million tons in 2013, according to researchers at Lodz University of Technology.

Measured against that 130 million tons figure, the 550,000 tons of alternative fibers, no matter how well-intentioned, represents a negligible 0.42 percent. The kicker here: The relatively small-scale of the alternative fibers purchase by the likes of Inditex, Zara, Kering, and co. could very well prove to be problematic if not marketed carefully by the brands involved.

Maybe even more pressing than the size of the collective commitment is how it could be viewed as skirting a more critical issue: “Most of our clothing is made from polyester [not forest fibers], produced in places far from where it is consumed, and produced in countries with the dirtiest energy grids,” sustainability policy expert Kristen Fanarakis says. As a result, commitments to “reducing the amount of polyester used, shortening the supply chains, or shifting production away from existing centers” would be a “more meaningful” approach. (Fanarakis notes that polyester is the most commonly used textile for apparel, making up at least 52 percent of all fiber production, according to Common Objective, and a particularly problematic one, “given how it is produced (using oil), what happens when we use it (micro-plastics shedding), and where it ends up (living in a landfill forever).”

The Legal Perspective

Looking at such commitments from a legal perspective, the stakes are getting higher for brands. In light of rising skepticism – and in some cases, lawsuits – from regulators and consumers, alike, over companies’ often-widely-marketed ESG credentials and/or use of industry ratings systems, it could be risky for companies engage in efforts on this front. (Fear of PR backlash and/or legal action over ESG commitments is prompting a growing number of companies to reconsider how they are talking about their ESG initiatives, while others are walking back on making such efforts public.)

In the wake of recent criticism of the Higg Index and its treatment of synthetic textiles, the “preferred” fibers and materials narrative may be an especially treacherous avenue to navigate at the moment. In June, for example, the New York Times published a lengthy article dissecting the Higg Index, the “influential rating system assessing the environmental impact of all sorts of fabrics and materials,” and ultimately, calling foul. The Higg Index “strongly favors synthetic materials made from fossil fuels over natural ones like cotton, wool or leather,” the Times’ Hiroko Tabuchi wrote, asserting that such ratings “are coming under fire from independent experts … who say the Higg Index is being used to portray the increasing use of synthetics use as environmentally desirable despite questions over synthetics’ environmental toll.”

All the while, the Higg Index and its stance on synthetics has also been cited in more than one lawsuit, with Allbirds, for instance, landing on the receiving end of consumer protection statute violation, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment claims last year due, in large part, to its use of allegedly “misleading” environmental impact claims, which it based on the Higg Index. (A New York federal court tossed out the case in April. In terms of Allbirds’ environmental impact claims, and namely, Plaintiff Patricia Dwyer’s pushback against its use of the Higg Index as the basis for such claims, the court determined that her “criticism [is] of the tool’s methodology,” not with Allbirds’ statements about its products.)

The bigger picture here is that companies – including well-meaning ones – would be wise to approach this textiles-related initiatives and marketing carefully, as growing consumer and regulatory attention is requiring brands to work overtime to balance the marketing of their climate efforts with the very-real risks of greenwashing-centric backlash and litigation.

Nike’s latest web3 venture is here. Taking the form of a web3-enabled platform, .Swoosh is aiming to enable consumers to “learn about, collect and eventually help co-create virtual creations, which are typically interactive digital objects, such as virtual shoes or jerseys,” the Beaverton, Oregon-based company announced on Monday. Currently in beta mode, the platform will ultimately serve as a place “where our community can come in and co-create [the] future with us,” Ron Faris, GM of Nike Virtual Studios, said in a statement. “You can collect, trade, and flex Nike virtual products. You can go to IRL events with your token-gated virtual creations.” 

Nike says that it will grow the platform by inviting in “a diverse, equitable community, then launch its first digital collection – shaped by its members – [beginning] in 2023.” Shortly after the first digital collection drops, “Members will be able to enter a community challenge to win the opportunity to co-create virtual product with Nike, [with] those winners [able] earn a royalty on the virtual product they help co-create.” 

The point of the venture, according to Nike? “To expand the definition of sport – and serve its future – by democratizing the web3 experience so that everyone can collect, create and own a piece of this new digital world.” Faris notes, “We are shaping a marketplace of the future with an accessible platform for the web3-curious. In this new space, the .SWOOSH community and Nike can create, share, and benefit together.”

The announcement comes after Nike has continued to position itself at the forefront of the budding web3 universe. On the heels of first partnering with gaming platform Roblox back in the 2019 and also receiving a utility patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a “system and method for providing cryptographically secured digital assets” that same year, the sportswear titan hinted at future ambitions in this space by way of filed an array of intent-to-use applications in October 2021 for its most famous trademarks – word marks “Nike,” “Just Do It,” “Jordan,” and “Air Jordan,” its iconic swoosh logo, the Jordan silhouette logo, and a stylized combination of its name and the swoosh – for use on various virtual goods/services, kicking off a frenzy of similar filings by brands across industries.

Nike .Swoosh ad

Since then, Nike, Inc. acquired RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming,” in December 2021 in furtherance of what Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said was “another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation.”

As for its actual output in the web3 front, Nike, landed in the top spot on a list of large brands that are generating revenue from non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”). According to data from Dune Analytics, which sheds light on the primary sales revenues, secondary transactions, and royalties associated with some of the early-moving brands participating in the NFT space, as of this summer, Nike had generated a total of $185.31 million in revenue from its NFT collections, namely, those from RTFKT. In addition to primary revenue, Nike boasts big number in terms of primary sales revenue ($93.1 million) secondary transactions (67.4k), secondary volume ($1.29 billion), and total royalties ($92.21 million). 

In conjunction with the announcement, counsel for Nike filed a trio of intent-to-use trademark applications for registration for “.Swoosh”, “DOTSWOOSH”, and a stylized version of the swoosh logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use in Classes 9, 16, 18, 25, 28, 38, 40, 41, 42, and 45.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Nike is not the only big-name-company looking to experiment with web3. The innovation arm of Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent owner Kering recently launched a web3 project of its own called KNXT, which it calls “the first platform to offer a secure online luxury shopping experience designed specifically for cryptocurrencies users” and to “leverage the power of [blockchain and fashion] to offer a next-gen experience of luxury fashion shopping.” 

Specifically, KNXT is angling to give consumers the opportunity to “buy high-end products from prestigious luxury houses with cryptocurrencies” by processing payments through Bitpay. As of now, the brands whose wares are available by way of KNXT include Kering-owned companies, such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Alexander McQueen, as well as brands that do not fall under the Kering umbrella like Giambattista Valli and Courrèges.

Funding is flowing into the metaverse and broader web3 endeavors. Since March 2021, sales of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) have made headlines – both for the eye-watering prices that some were commanding at auction and for the potential for NFTs to become a robust market, as brands appeared to be eager to market themselves and connect with consumers by way of these relatively novel pieces of technology. For Q3 in 2021, Forbes reported that the sale of NFTs had amounted to $10.7 billion in Q3 2021, a more than 8-fold increase from the previous quarter. As of January 2022, the monthly volume of NFT sales on the OpenSea marketplace hit an all-time high of $5 billion. 

Fast forward to October 2021 and Facebook, Inc.’s announcement that it would rebrand to Meta, Inc. in furtherance of a shift away from being a social media company to becoming “a metaverse company,” seemingly solidified a larger shift among companies that a blend of “real” and virtual worlds is the future. 

Against that background, brands have launched various ventures in the metaverse – from Gucci’s Garden pop-up in the Roblox metaverse (complete with virtual Gucci-branded handbags and apparel) to Nike’s “Nikeland” experience – and at the same time, rushed to file trademark applications for registration for their current (or far more frequently, their impending) uses of their trademarks on virtual goods/services and NFTs. 

All the while, cash has been flowing into the space (with more than $2 billion and $62.8 billion being invested in augmented reality ventures and virtual world projects, respectively, in 2021, per CrunchBase), and at least a one major acquisition has taken place. With so much activity underway when it comes to the virtual world, from metaverse ventures to crypto funds, we have put together a (running) timeline of investments and M&A events to provide a broad overview of which players are raising funding, getting acquired, and what the trajectory of this segment of the market – which only appears to be gaining in steam – looks like more generally … 

Nov. 14, 2022 – Yuga Labs acquires Beeple’s WENEW

Yuga Labs confirmed the acquisition of WENEW, a web3 service provider and platform “known for web3-centric partnerships with celebrated brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Playboy, Wimbledon, Gucci, Puma, and others.” Bored Ape Yacht Club creator Yuga Labs will also acquire WENEW’s flagship NFT collection, 10KTF, which “is an interoperable digital storefront where holders from top NFT collections (BAYC, Cool Cats, Moonbirds, and others) can mint and collect one-of-a-kind NFTs featuring their digital avatar on various metaverse-ready digital wearables.” The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Following the acquisition, Michael Figge, co-founder and CEO of WENEW, will join Yuga’s leadership team as the Chief Content Officer, “responsible for pushing the boundaries of imagination and creativity at Yuga through out-of-the-box content strategies and experiences,” per Yuga. Fellow WENEW co-founder Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple – who made headlines last year when his “5000 Days” NFT collection sold for $69.346 million in a Christie’s auction – will join Yuga Labs as an advisor. Pitchbook also lists Yuga Labs-manager Guy Oseary as a co-founder of Los Angeles-based WENEW, which launched in June 2021.

Nov. 9, 2022 – Anything World Raises $7.5M in AI Animation Bid

Anything World, the platform for developing interactive 3D experiences through the power of Machine Learning announces today that $7.5 million has been raised in their Series Seed Plus funding round with investors including Acrew Capital, Alumni Ventures and Warner Music Group. “The capacity for anyone to create immersive and accessible experiences in virtual and 3D worlds has been expanded substantially by this funding round,” Anything World CEO Gordon Midwood said. “We’re thrilled to expand further the tools and opportunities we can provide to developers, creatives and the general public. Because of the interest and need from developers who want to create 3D worlds, populate those worlds with assets, and immerse users in incredible experiences, Anything World will continue to be the go-to platform.” 

Oct. 26, 2022 – Exclusible Closes €5 Million Strategic Round, Acquires Polycount

Lisbon-based web3 startup Exclusible has closed a 5 million euro “strategic round” led by Swiss soccer club FC Basel owner Holzmann and Tioga Capital with participation from White Star Capital, former Cartier CEO Stanislas de Quercize, former Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith, and Boston Consulting Group Managing Director & Partner Joel Hazan, among others. Exclusible – which was founded in October 2021 to provide luxury brands with tools to digitalize their products and launch NFT collections – will use the new funds to grow its team and build out its web3 customer relationship management product.

In addition to announcing the new round, Exclusible confirmed that it has acquired metaverse creative solution provider Polycount in a cash and stock deal that will enable it to onboard more designers and “fullfil the demand” for metaverse projects. Exclusible CEO Thibault Launay says that in terms of metaverse projects, the company’s “order book is pretty much full until Q2 2023.”

Oct. 1, 2022 – Seamm Closes $1.7 Million Round to Build Out New Platform

Seamm, the digital fashion platform “where real-life fashion brands can create new digital collections and enrich their clothes with new digital experiences, like wearing them in metaverses and video games,” has raised $1.7 million in a new round, which the company says will enable it to “scale go-to-market activities, attract and hire top talent, and accelerate the development of its platform.” In the business of “authenticating and digitalizing” fashion goods so that consumers can use them in virtual worlds, Seamm officially launches this month after operating in stealth mode since August.

The company’s founder and CEO Marina Martianova said in a statement, “We are going to bring apparel and accessories from the real world into digital form, which can then be transferred to the majority of metaverses and video games. Devoted to supporting independent fashion designers and cult niche products, we’re starting our journey with hand-picked brands from Portugal, the UK, Spain and the Middle East.” 

Sept. 30, 2022 – Bucherer Acquires Digital Authentication Startup Adresta

Swiss jewelry and watch manufacturer Bucherer has acquired Adresta AG, a Swiss tech startup that develops blockchain-based digital certificates for luxury goods. As part of the deal, which closed on September 30, Adresta’s services will be fully integrated into the Bucherer Group, ultimately, enabling Bucherer customers to gain “digital access to an exclusive shopping experience with additional services” that are expected to complement the “certified pre-owned” service that Bucherer launched in 2019, and bolster the company’s e-commerce capabilities.

With the integration of Adresta AG, “We are taking a few big steps forward in implementing our digital strategy,” Bucherer Group CEO Guido Zumbühl said. “We want to offer our customers a comprehensive shopping experience, which increasingly also includes digital services. We look forward to integrating this innovative company into the Bucherer Group.” Adresta CEO Mathew Chittazhathu, who will be employed at Bucherer to “drive development work and the further expansion of the software into a digital ecosystem,” says that “in Bucherer, we have found the ideal partner for us to develop our solution further and establish it optimally on the market for the benefit of customers.”

The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Sept. 13, 2022 – Doodles Raises $54 Million in New Round

Doodles announced that it has raised $54 million in equity funding, backed by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, along with Acrew Capital, FTX Ventures and 10T Holdings. Founded in 2021, the web3 NFT, media, and entertainment brand says it will use the funding “to rapidly acquire a world-class team of engineers, creatives, marketers and business executives, as well as to fund product development, acquisitions, proprietary technology, media, and collector experiences.” Doodles is looking to grow its team from 11 people to 30. On the heels of announcing the appointment of Pharrell Williams as chief brand officer in June, Doodles revealed that it recently hired a head of brand partnerships.

“We want to create products for our core collector base, but at the same time utilize these great forms of marketing like music, to introduce new people to Web3 and onboard them into the Doodles ecosystem,” Vancouver-based Doodles CEO Julian Hoguin says.

Sept. 7, 2022 – Tencent Boosts Investment, as Ubisoft Entertainment Looks to Metaverse

Tencent Holdings Ltd is raising its stake in Ubisoft Entertainment SA in a deal that values the games developer at about $10 billion, per Reuters. In addition to falling in line with the enduring trend of “deep-pocketed Chinese tech majors continuing their overseas search for growth,” the Tencent, Ubisoft deal is notable in that it comes as Montreuil, France-headquartered Ubisoft – and other traditional gaming companies – increasingly eye the metaverse to generate revenue from their existing IP. Early this year, for instance, Animoca Brands, the Hong Kong-based blockchain company behind The Sandbox, announced that it had formed a strategic partnership with Ubisoft, in which Ubisoft would receive its own land on the Sandbox’s metaverse platform and develop game experiences with NFTs in the virtual world.

August 25, 2022 – Nreal Raises $15 Million to Build Out AR Efforts

Nreal announced a $15 million investment from luxury eyewear brand Gentle Monster’s parent company, IICOMBINED, in furtherance of its focus on the consumer augmented reality (“AR”) market. The parties say that they are “exploring new collaboration opportunities to push the boundaries of fashion and technology,” with the investment coming as San Francisco-based “Nreal makes strides in expanding the appeal of AR [eyewear] to a broader audience base [and] delivering on the promise of AR for consumers everywhere.”

“This investment is an exciting try for the combination and exploration for the boundary of fashion and tech. In the future, we will leverage both parties’ strength and make joint efforts to create more possibilities,” said Hankook Kim, co-founder of Gentle Monster and CEO of IICOMBINED.

June 30, 2022 – Metaverse Platform Mona Raises $14.6 Million in Series A Round

Mona has raised a $14.6 million in a Series A round co-led by Protocol Labs, Archetype and Collab+Currency. The San Francisco-based company touts itself as providing “the first and only platform and network for creators to build, mint, and sell interactive metaverse worlds as NFTs.” In a statement, Mona CEO and co-founder Justin Melillo said, “With the closing of this round, we will continue to grow our global, vibrant community of builders as we onboard thousands of new creators to the open metaverse and web3. The metaverse doesn’t have to belong to big tech companies – it can, and will, be a place for everyone.”

June 23, 2022 – Gucci Invests in SuperRareDAO Ahead of Exhibition Launch

Gucci has entered into a partnership with NFT marketplace SuperRare, acquiring $25,000 in $RARE tokens to join the SuperRareDAO, and launch its the Vault Art Space. “The vault is Gucci’s digital space,” SuperRare co-founder and chief product officer Jonathan Perkins said this week. “And they are going to be working with artists and selling art through their space, which will be powered by SuperRare technology. The brand’s acquisition of RARE tokens gives it rights in the decentralized autonomous organization that governs the SuperRare platform. According to SuperRare, “Members of the community who hold governance tokens” – i.e., $RARE, the new SuperRare curation token – “can use them to vote on issues and decisions that affect the organization.”

June 23, 2022 – LincTex Digital Raises $100 Million for Digital Fashion Push

LincTex Digital raised $100 million in a round led by Hillhouse Capital and CDH Investments, with the Hangzhou-based company, which does business as Style3D, saying that it will use the funds for international expansion and to make further inroads into the digital fashion realm. “From developing virtual try-on technologies and 3D body scanning in the beginning,” Reuters reported that Style3D has now “broadened its offering to include digital services for fashion designers and manufacturers so they can use big data to design and produce fashion collections.”

June 22, 2022 – EBay Acquires NFT Marketplace KnownOrigin

eBay has acquired NFT marketplace KnownOrigin for an undisclosed sum, the parties confirmed in a release. Facilitating nearly $8 million in NFT trading since its founding in 2018, Manchester, UK-based KnownOrigin states that its “technology and platform provides artists with a place to create unique, authentic, digital collectibles, in the form of NFTs.” The deal is “an important step in eBay’s tech-led reimagination,” the parties revealed, “ushering in a new era of digital collecting to the world’s top destination for collectibles.”

“eBay is the first stop for people across the globe who are searching for that perfect, hard-to-find, or unique addition to their collection and, with this acquisition, we will remain a leading site as our community is increasingly adding digital collectibles,” said Jamie Iannone, CEO of eBay. “KnownOrigin has built up an impressive, passionate and loyal group of artists and collectors making them a perfect addition to our community of sellers and buyers. We look forward to welcoming these innovators as they join the eBay community.”  

June 19, 2022 – Endstate Raises $5.5 Million in Seed Round

Combining NFTs with proprietary technology to definitively link physical products to digital assets, Endstate announced a $5.5 million seed round with investors including Archetype Ventures, Accomplice Ventures, Road Capital, and CMS Holdings, among others. Founded in 2020 by Bennett Collen and Stephanie Howard, Massachusetts-based Endstate says that it will use the funding to “help us reach the Endstate sooner — accelerating our product development and innovation roadmaps, and allowing us to continue to hire world-class talent.”

May 22, 2022 – BUD Raises $37 Million in Series B

BUD has raised $37 million in a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital India, with participation from Chinese billionaire William Lei Ding’s company NetEase, Chinese VC firms ClearVue Partners, and Northern Light Venture Capital, along with existing investors GGV Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, and Source Code Capital. The Singapore-based metaverse startup will use the funds to “launch Web3 products, the next generation of the internet that runs on blockchains,” and will also introduce NFT projects to allow users to “own and trade virtual assets derived from the metaverse,” per Forbes. The round follows from BUD’s Series A round, which was completed in February.

May 10, 2022 – Arianee Raises €20 Million in Series A Round

Arianee, the leading end to end web3 solution for brands, has raised a €20 million ($21.09 million) in a Series A led round by Tiger Global. Existing investors Bpifrance, ISAI, Noia Capital and Cygni Labs, joined the round, along with Commerce Ventures, Motier Ventures and Pierre Denis, former CEO of Jimmy Choo. In a release on Tuesday, Paris-based Arianne stated that “web3 is a unique opportunity for companies and individuals to regain control over their digital presence, especially their data, [and] it’s the time for businesses to free themselves from the dependency on big platforms and lead new usage and innovation.”

An end to end web3 solution built to create, distribute and interact with NFTs, including by enabling brands to tokenize, distribute and leverage value through NFTs, Arianee says it will use the new funds to accelerate its international presence by growing its New York office, recruiting new talent and continuing the development of its products and services. The 4-year old company says its staff has tripled since its last funding round in March 2021, and it currently boasts more than 50 clients and partners (including IBM and the metaverse The Sandbox) in Europe and North America. 

May 4, 2022 – immi App Secures $50 Million Valuation Following Seed Round

Mark Cuban, singer Pitbull, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, DJ Steve Aoki, and Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media are among the investors in a seed round for animation app immi, a round that an immi spokesman says values the company at $50 million. Immi characterizes itself as “the only real-time animation platform making full-body 3D cinema-quality characters and facial tracking technology accessible to anyone, anywhere.”

May 2, 2022 – Yuga Labs Raises $285 Million in Virtual Land Sale

Yuga Labs. the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of NFTs, raised approximately $285 million worth of cryptocurrency by selling tokens that represent land in a virtual world game it says it is building. In an online sale on April 30, Yuga Labs sold NFTs called “Otherdeeds,” which can exchanged as plots of virtual land in a Bored Ape-themed online environment called “Otherside” that is expected to launch in the near future, per Reuters. The 55,000 Otherdeeds that were offered up were purchasable using the Yuga-created ApeCoin cryptocurrency

Apr 11, 2022 – Epic Games Raises $2 Billion in Funding for Metaverse Endeavor

Fortnite creator Epic Games raised $2 billion from Sony Group and Kirkbi, the family owned holding company behind the Lego Group, in a deal that values the company at $31.5 billion. Epic will use the new cash to help fund the kid-focused metaverse endeavor that it announced last month in partnership with Lego. “As we reimagine the future of entertainment and play we need partners who share our vision. We have found this in our partnership with Sony and Kirkbi,” said Tim Sweeney, the CEO and founder Epic Games, in a statement. “This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive.”

“All three companies highly value both creators and players, and aim to create new social entertainment exploring the connection between digital and physical worlds,” the companies said in a statement.

Apr 8, 2022 – The Fabricant Raises $14 Million

Digital fashion brand The Fabricant raised $14 million in a Series A round led by Greenfield One, and with participation from Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, and Red DAO, and among others. The Netherlands-based company says that the funding will be used to support and expand its co-creation and NFT platform, The Fabricant Studio, which enables “everyday users to become creators [and] craft high-end digital fashion NFTs in collaboration with their favorite brands,” according to Maaria Bajwa, Investor at Sound Ventures.

Jascha Samadi, Partner of Greenfield One said in a statement, “Within virtual environments we are likely going to have multiple digital reflections of our physical self. The Fabricant Studio allows any creator to become their own fashion designer in the metaverse — paired with Web3 technology, digital fashion becomes unique, tradeable and accessible for the masses. The team behind The Fabricant identified this paradigm of user-generated fashion very early on, long before NFTs caught mainstream attention.”

Mar 22, 2022 – Kering Among Investors in $1.5 Billion Haun Ventures Raise

French luxury goods group Kering is among the investors in former Andreessen Horowitz general partner Katie Haun’s new crypto fund, Haun Venture. Haun Ventures will invest in “both start-up equity, and in some cases the cryptocurrencies issued by those start-ups, also known as tokens,” per CNBC, which reported that Haun’s fund will be divided into two segments: $500 million for early-stage companies and protocols, and $1 billion for later-stage projects.

Mar 22, 2022 – Yuga Labs Valued at $4 Billion Following Round

Yuga Labs announced that is now at valued at $4 billion, following a $450 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund, a16z crypto. According to Reuters, “Metaverse gaming company Animoca and its subsidiary, The Sandbox, and crypto exchange FTX are also among the investors that participated in the latest round.”

Mar 18, 2022 – Universal Music Acquires BAYC NFT for $360K

Universal Music Group has acquired Bored Ape #5537, a female character NFT now known as Manager Noët All, from its former owner for $360,817. The digital asset will join the digital musical group, Kingship, that Universal’s next-gen label 10:22PM created in November 2021. The group initially consisted of four “rare Golden Fur and Bluebeam Apes” from Yuga Labs’ collection of Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs. According to Reuters, “Kingship, which exists solely in digital form, will have its own website and presence on messaging platform Discord, and will eventually produce new music and give virtual performances in the metaverse.”

Mar 11, 2022 – Yuga Labs Acquires CryptoPunks, Meebits from Larva

Yuga Labs, the titan behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs, announced that it has “acquired the IP of the CryptoPunks and Meebits NFT collections from Larva Labs,” another giant in the digital assets space, which means that Yuga now “owns the brands, copyright in the art, and other IP rights for both collections, along with 423 CryptoPunks and 1711 Meebits.” The company says that its first move will be to grant CryptoPunks and Meebits holders “the same commercial rights that BAYC and MAYC owners enjoy” in a move that “further align[s] CryptoPunks and Meebits with the web3 ethos.” 

Mar 8, 2022 – UNXD Raises $4 Million

UNXD announced that it has raised a $4 million funding round led by Animoca Brands, Polygon Studios, and Red DAO. In addition to partnering with brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana, to create NFTs, the B2B metaverse-focused company also hosts a Polygon-based (Ethereum-compatible) digital luxury fashion marketplace, which is says is the home of “the best of digital luxury and culture.” Founded in 2021 by Nick Gonzalez and Shashi Menon, UNXD states that it will use the new cash to further scale its “team, ecosystem, and roster of partner brands.”

Mar 7, 2022 – Space Runners Raises $10 Million 

Metaverse fashion brand Space Runners has raised $10 million in a funding round co-led by Polychain and Pantera Capital, and including Accel, Jump Crypto, Animoca Brands Chairman Yat Siu, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. “We are designing and launching fashion items as NFT collections, which is ongoing,” Space Runners CEO Deniz Özgür stated. “But we are also launching the first phase of our fashion metaverse. Rather than just an urban cyber style, we are giving more weight to beauty and aesthetics, and we’ve been collaborating with some of the most popular fashion agencies in New York.”

Mar 7, 2022 – Immutable Raises $200 Million

Immutable raised $200 million from investors led by Singapore’s Temasek, valuing the Australian NFT startup at $2.5 billion, the company announced. Investors include Mirae Asset, ParaFi Capital, Declaration Partners, and Tencent Holdings, among others.

Mar 3, 2022 – Nifty League Raises $5 Million in Seed Round

Nifty League, a leading NFT gaming platform, today announced the close of a $5 million seed investment round led by New York-based private investment firm RSE Ventures, along with Spartan Group, Lerer Hippeau, VaynerFund, Private Ventures Group, DraftKings Co-founder Matthew Kalish, and Gallery Media Group CEO Ryan Harwood, among others. Launched in September 2021, Nifty League is bringing “competitive gaming to Web3 – moving away from play-to-earn into a new era of play-and-earn by offering a fun and engaging gaming ecosystem.” 

Feb 25, 2022 – CollectID Raises $3.5 Million in Seed Round

CollectID closed a $3.5 million seed funding round led by SeventySix Capital and Hellen’s Rock. The Swiss-based startup combines NFT technology, backed by an immutably secure blockchain, through a tamper-proof NFC tag to provide a secure and unique identity for each product that can be applied to the majority of physical objects including clothes, accessories, shoes, watches.

Feb 22, 2022 – Metamall Raises $400K in Latest Round

Metamall, a metaverse start-up that allows buyers to own, build and develop virtual real estate has closed its Initial Dex Offering – or “IDO” – to raise $400k with the supply of 80 million tokens. With this round and previous funding (Metamall previously raised $4.6 million in its seed, strategic and private rounds and more than $2 million through NFT sales), Metamall announced that it is the first retail commerce-themed metaverse platform in the world to raise funding more than $7 million from private and public investors.

Feb 21, 2022 – Jambo Raises $7.5 Million in Seed Round

Jambo raised $7.5 million in seed funding in furtherance of Africa’s most notable metaverse venture. The Congo-based startup is angling to build Africa’s web3 user acquisition portal through “learn, play, earn” and democratizing access to crypto-based income-generation opportunities. According to TechCrunch, “Experts say Africa is poised to be disrupted by web3 in a similar fashion that has seen Southeast Asia become one of the best markets for web3.”

Feb 14, 2022 – BUD Raises $15 Million in Series A+

BUD raised $15 million funding in a Series A+ round. Founded by former Snap engineers Shawn Lin and Risa Feng in 2019, BUD allows users to create customizable 3D experiences and interact with others by way of its app. 

Feb 13, 2022 – BNV.ME Raises $4 Million to “Elevate NFT Experiences in the Metaverse”

Brand New Vision Ltd, the company behind BNV.ME, the leading platform taking fashion into Web3.0 through 3D Product Creation, NFT sales, and Future Wearability, completed a $4 million Series A funding round led by Animoca Brands. In a statement, BNV.ME said that the funding will enable it to further expand its capabilities for creating elevated NFT experiences across the metaverse offerings that already exist and those that are under development, as well as growing its visibility and presence across the worlds of fashion, gaming, and crypto communities.

Feb 3, 2022 – nfinite Raises $15 million in Series A

Next-generation visualization and e-commerce merchandising provider nfinite raised $15 million in Series A funding led by US Venture Partners. New York-based nfinite stated that the funding would be used to accelerate development of its SaaS 3D visualization platform and to scale the company’s operations in North America. 

FY 2021

Dec 13, 2021 – Nike Acquires RTFKT

NIKE, Inc. announced that it would acquire RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement that the acquisition is “another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” and one that will help to “extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.” Terms of the deal were not announced. 

Nov 22, 2021 – Niantic Raises $300 Million to Build “Real-World Metaverse”

Niantic, the augmented reality platform behind Pokémon GO, raised $300 million from Coatue, valuing the company at $9 billion. The San Francisco-based startup announced that it will use the funding to build the “real-world metaverse.”

Nov 5, 2021 – VNTANA Brings Funding to $12.5 Million

VNTANA, the industry leader in 3D Content Management Software, closed its latest round of funding, with investment from Mark Cuban, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Flexport and Anorak Ventures, among others, bringing its total funding to $12.5 million in total. VNTANA says that its tech “makes it easy for brands across fashion, footwear, furniture, tools, sporting goods, and more” – including Ugg-owner Deckers Brands, Staud and Diesel – “to share and embed 3D and AR for sales and marketing use.” 

Oct 13, 2021 – Stage11 Raises a €5 Million Seed Round

Immersive music experience startup Stage11 raised a 5 million euro seed round led by Otium Capital, a European venture capital fund, backed up by founder and CEO, Jonathan Belolo. Stage11 stated that it is “setting out to redefine the interactive music experience by combining gaming, mixed reality, and digital collectibles,” including by building “a new creative canvas for artists, allowing them to invite fans to live, play, and create inside their performances and musical worlds.” 

May 5, 2021 – RTFKT Raises $8 Million 

RTFKT raised $8 million in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and that includes Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, artist Fewocious, and former LVMH Chief Digital Officer Ian Rogers, among others, in furtherance of its quest to “empower the future of fashion.” The round valued the company – which was not even 2 years old at the time – at $33.3 million.

Apr 21, 2021 – The Fabricant Announces Funding Round

Leading virtual fashion firm The Fabricant announced the close of an undisclosed funding round in furtherance of its aim to “create tools and products that transform the fashion industry into a fully digital existence in both production and consumption, while democratizing fashion creation into a collaborative process utilizing 3D technology and the creativity of the consumer, accessible to everyone.” Participants in the round included 4impact, Borski Fund and Slingshot.

Vans has lodged an amended complaint in the trademark fight that it waged against Walmart last year, accusing the retail titan of infringing its valuable trademarks by “flood[ing] the market with cheap, low-quality, and confusingly similar shoes that harm Vans’ goodwill and reputation.” According to the amended complaint that it filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on November 8, Vans claims that Walmart has continued to sell allegedly infringing footwear despite the preliminary injunction that was put in place by the court in March, barring Walmart from making, marketing, and selling dozens of infringing footwear styles, and from using “any of Vans’ registered trademarks, or any trade dress or trademark that is substantially similar thereto, on or in connection with [Walmart’s] shoes or related services.” 

Between its filing of a motion for preliminary injunction and the court’s March 31 preliminary injunction order, Vans alleges that it “discovered that Walmart was selling even more infringing shoes, featuring trade dress and marks that are confusingly similar to Vans’ asserted trade dress rights and marks.” And since the injunction was put in place, Vans asserts that Walmart’s “escalating” infringement campaign has seen it “continue promoting, offering to sell, and selling” shoes that are “colorable imitations of the enjoined sneakers and that violate Vans’ asserted trade dress rights and trademarks,” including Vans’ stripe logo, and its OLD SKOOL shoe and Checkerboard Slip-On trade dress. Specifically, Vans claims that Walmart released of a new collection of shoes under its “Tredsafe” line, which consists of a “slightly modified version of its already enjoined side stripe design.” 

Beyond that, Vans contends that in an effort to expand its “scheme to knock off Vans by selling infringing shoes in the United States,” Bentonville, Arkansas-headquartered Walmart began selling “many of the infringing shoes (as well as additional infringing shoes designed in collaboration with [fellow defendant] ACI) in other countries, including Canada.” (According to Vans, ACI is “the co-designer, manufacturer, and importer for most, if not all, of Walmart’s infringing in-house shoes [at issue] in this complaint.”)

Vans sneakers and allegedly infringing sneakers from Walmart

“Evidence produced by Walmart thus far in the case demonstrates that Walmart and its U.S. employees actively participated in the design of the infringing shoes, including infringing shoes that are being sold by Walmart in Canada,” Vans argues, stating that “Walmart’s U.S. employees directed ACI to design the infringing shoes by copying Vans’ shoes.” To make matters worse, Vans contends that “Walmart’s U.S. employees specifically directed ACI to make the Walmart shoes look more like Vans shoes, including by ‘cad[ing] up’ (i.e., diagraming) the infringing shoes based on Vans’ shoes and copying the exact color schemes of Vans’ shoes.” 

And still yet, Vans says that the shoes being offered up by Walmart in Canada were actually meant to be part of Walmart’s Spring 2022 collection in the U.S., and “after entry of the Court’s preliminary injunction order, Walmart and ACI diverted [those] shoes to Canada or other foreign markets in violation of the Lanham Act and the Court’s preliminary injunction order.” 

Vans goes on the make claims that mirror its initial complaint. Among other things, Vans maintains that in a brazen attempt to bank on the appeal of its brand and famous offerings, Walmart has co-opted its “iconic” jazz-stripe trademark and OLD SKOOL trade dress by way of “blatant knockoff” that are “likely to cause confusion, deception, and mistake [among consumers] by creating the false and misleading impression that [its] goods are produced or distributed by Vans, or are affiliated, connected, or associated with Vans, or have the sponsorship, endorsement, or approval of Vans.”  

Not limited to the copycat footwear, Vans asserts that Walmart goes further to confuse consumers by “intentionally market[ing] all of its infringing shoes as either ‘Skate’ or ‘Retro’ sneakers in an attempt to suggest a connection with Vans’ products,” and by offering up the allegedly infringing footwear alongside what appears to be authentic Vans sneakers, the latter of which are offered up by sellers on Walmart’s third-party marketplace.  And still yet, “Walmart also enlists endorsers and influencers to promote its products, including [the] infringing shoes,” per Vans, which claims that Walmart is “well aware” that many of these individuals promote the allegedly infringing footwear by explicitly referring to them as “Vans dupes” or “Vans knockoffs,” and/or by “intentionally trying to divert potential customers away from Vans.”   

On the heels of Vans filing suit against Walmart in November 2021 and seeking injunctive relief (which Walmart pushed back against, arguing that Vans’ trademark rights are “weak,” and consumers are unlikely to be confused as to the source of the parties’ offerings, among other things), a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California sided with Vans. In his March 2022 order, Judge David Carter found that Vans “succeed in showing that its trademarks and trade dresses are valid and protectable,” and that a “‘reasonably prudent consumer’ in the marketplace is likely to be confused about the origin of the good or service bearing one of the marks.” 

With that in mind, the court ordered that Walmart refrain from “using Vans’ Side Stripe Mark, Old Skool trade dress, SK8-Hi trade dress, Old Skool Toddler trade dress (each as defined in Vans’ Complaint in this action), or any of Vans’ registered trademarks, or any trade dress or trademark that is substantially similar thereto, on or in connection with [its] shoes or related services” for the duration of the litigation. 

The case is Vans, Inc. et al, v. Walmart, Inc., et al, 8:21-cv-01876 (C.D.Cal.)