Briefing: September 9, 2022

There is no end in sight to the mounting criticism of companies’ potentially baseless green-focused advertising. On the heels of Mercedes coming under fire for a campaign titled “Nature or Nothing,” in which the automaker touted its EQ electric vehicles and featured depictions of the Mercedes logo formed using images of nature, Kourtney Kardashian and Boohoo are facing flak over her appointment as the British fast fashion company’s “sustainability ambassador,” which will see them release a 46-piece collaborative capsule collection of recycled polyester and recycled cotton wares priced between $6 and $100.

For Mercedes, much of the pushback stems from the fact that its parent Daimler is currently embroiled in litigation in Germany for allegedly refusing to tighten its carbon emissions targets and give up fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2030. For Boohoo, claims of greenwashing around the Kardashian announcement come hand-in-hand with allegations that the company “does not provide any measurable commitment towards its sustainability practices,” making its marketing on this front difficult to reconcile. Taken together, these instances, which have brought no shortage of bad PR for the companies and individuals involved, and the rising number of ESG and sustainability marketing-centric lawsuits that are being filed show that it is becoming markedly difficult for companies to make even potentially vague claims without issues. (More about that here.) 

In other ESG-related news, Ethereum has announced plans to rid itself of the energy-intensive code that has long muddied its environmental image, and cut 99% of its energy use in the process. This is especially notable, as if Ethereum’s switch to a more efficient technology proves successful, “regulators will probably see no reason why Bitcoin and other wasteful cryptocurrencies should not follow suit.”

We have some new data on trademark applications in the realm of NFTs and the metaverse, which appear to be on a relatively steady decline in the U.S., following a spike in March 2022. Meanwhile, the EUIPO released official stats this week, saying that it “has been registering applications [relating to] NFTs and the metaverse since last year,” and so, far has registered … 1,277 applications for NFTs in 2021; 1,157 applications for NFTs in 2022; and 205 applications for metaverse uses in 2022.

A new lawsuit caught my eye this week: Investment firm Metacapital Management LP filed a trademark infringement suit against Meta Platforms Inc (the company formerly known as Facebook Inc.) in a New York federal court. (You can find that complaint here.) Meanwhile, this separate Meta v. Meta reverse confusion case is still underway.

Not underway for much longer? Miramax v. Tarantino, as the parties filed a notice of settlement on Thursday, alerting the court that they “have settled this case and expect to file their dismissal papers within two weeks.”

In this week’s deal-making news, a non-fashion funding round has some implications for industry occupants, nonetheless, as the latest nod that companies are taking big bets on the future of the metaverse. Tencent Holdings Ltd revealed that it is raising its stake in Ubisoft Entertainment SA. 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 Ubisoft – and other traditional gaming companies and fashion companies, as well – increasingly eye the metaverse to generate revenue from their existing IP.

And in another nod to where cash is going (other than the metaverse), Alexander Wang announced its first-ever outside investment, with two China-based entities – venture capital fund Challenjers Capital and apparel manufacturing and real estate firm Youngor Group – taking an undisclosed minority stake in the New York-based brand, whose eponymous founder and creative director has faced sexual assault allegations in recent years. More about that unexpected round right here.