The White House released its “First-Ever Comprehensive Framework for Responsible Development of Digital Assets” on Friday, saying that “millions of people globally, including 16 percent of adult Americans, have purchased digital assets” – from cryptocurrencies to non-fungible tokens, putting a value of $3 trillion on the global market for digital assets as of November 2021. Setting the stage in its release, the Biden Administration states that while “digital assets present potential opportunities to reinforce U.S. leadership in the global financial system and remain at the technological frontier, they also pose real risks as evidenced by recent events in crypto markets,” including the May crash of “a so-called stablecoin and the subsequent wave of insolvencies wiped out over $600 billion of investor and consumer funds.” 

In the wake of the release of President Biden March 2022 digital asset-focused Executive Order (“EO”), which outlined “the first whole-of-government approach to addressing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits of digital assets and their underlying technology,” the White House says that relevant government agencies have worked together to develop frameworks and policy recommendations that advance the six key priorities identified in the EO, namely, “consumer and investor protection; promoting financial stability; countering illicit finance; U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness; financial inclusion; and responsible innovation.” 

Together, the resulting nine reports that have been submitted to President Biden “articulate a clear framework for responsible digital asset development and pave the way for further action at home and abroad,” the White House asserted on Friday.

The reports consist of: (1) the U.S. Department of Commerce’s report, Responsible Advancement of U.S. Competitiveness in Digital Assets; (2) the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s report, Climate and Energy Implications of Crypto-Assets in the United States; (3) another from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, entitled, Technical Evaluation for a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency System; (4) the Department of Justice’s report, The Role of Law Enforcement in Detecting, Investigating, and Prosecuting Criminal Activity Related to Digital Assets; (5) Department of the Treasury’s report, The Future of Money and Payments; (6) the Department of the Treasury report, Crypto-Assets: Implications for Consumers, Investors, and Businesses; (7) another from the Department of the Treasury, entitled, Action Plan to Address Illicit Financing Risks of Digital Assets.

From a risk standpoint, such reports reveal that “sellers commonly mislead consumers about digital assets’ features and expected returns, and non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations remains widespread.” In fact, one study found that “almost a quarter of digital coin offerings had disclosure or transparency problems—like plagiarized documents or false promises of guaranteed returns.” At the same time, the White House contends that “outright fraud, scams, and theft in digital asset markets are on the rise: according to FBI statistics, reported monetary losses from digital asset scams were nearly 600 percent higher in 2021 than the year before.” 

Against that background, and “as outlined in the reports released today,” the White House is calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) “as appropriate, to redouble their efforts to monitor consumer complaints and to enforce against unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices,” among other things. Moreover, the reports “encourage agencies to issue guidance and rules to address current and emergent risks in the digital asset ecosystem,” which seems to fall neatly in line with the call by the FTC, for example, for public comment on ways to modernize the guidance to align it with new advances in technology – including virtual reality (“VR”), augmented reality (“AR”), gaming, the metaverse, etc. – and how advertisers now interact with consumers. This comes in light of the agency’s plans to revise its digital advertising guide to include new guidance that may take the metaverse/virtual reality into consideration.

Attention to NFTs

While the bulk of the White House’s release centers on financial risks that come with widespread embrace of digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, it does make specific – albeit brief – mention of NFTs, stating that the President “will evaluate whether to call upon Congress to amend the Bank Secrecy Act, anti-tip-off statutes, and laws against unlicensed money transmitting to apply explicitly to digital asset service providers—including digital asset exchanges and non-fungible token platforms.” The individual reports, on the other hand, pay a fair amount of attention to NFTs …

The Department of Justice’s report dives into this type of token, as well as the applicability of the Bank Secrecy Act to NFT platforms, like OpenSea, given that such platforms “may take the view that this definition does not apply to their activities—and that they are thus not subject to the BSA’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism requirements.”

An excerpt from the DOJ's report

The Department of Commerce’s report states that “in just over a decade, digital assets have emerged as a factor in political, economic, social, and cultural discourse about the future of financial services. Terms such as crypto-asset, digital dollar, and NFT are now prominent in everyday discussion on personal finances and many Americans are increasingly asking whether digital assets should have a place in their portfolios.” The agency sates that “NFTs and smart contract implementations may also offer innovations in product and intellectual property verification,” and notes that “there are outstanding legal questions regarding the purported intellectual property, copyright, trademark rights of NFTs.”

The Department of the Treasury’s “Crypto-Assets” report pays significant attention to NFTs, stating, among other things, “NFTs purport to represent a claim or receipt on an asset or object that has inherently unique characteristics or that differs from similar assets in some distinguishable way. Although NFTs are tradeable, they are not interchangeable.” Proponents of NFTs claim they have “many potential applications, such as representations of collectible items (for example, art or music), digital goods, individual identification credentials, access keys, property deeds or titles, or tickets for travel or events.” However, the Treasury report cautions that “the legal rights afforded by NFTs are unclear and have been subject to litigation.”

Among the issues with NFTs, according to the agency, are “disclosure and integrity gaps, where, for example, consumers can unknowingly buy NFTs that may contain infringements,” with the agency pointing to the Hermès v. Rothschild case. “The industry has seen a significant increase in the number of lawsuits filed,” it notes, “with claims related to deceitful marketing tactics or for sales made under false pretenses.”

Endless media coverage of the future potential of cryptocurrencies – from Bitcoin and Ether to currencies like Dogecoin – has made digital money a hot topic. In the simplest terms, digital money can be defined as a form of currency that uses computer networks to make payments. One of the main differences between digital money and physical currency, such as cash, is that digital money lacks any identifying features that make it unique. If you take a glance at any bank notes you might have, you will quickly notice that each note has a serial number — a unique string of letters and numbers that marks the uniqueness of that bill.

But as we know, digital objects, such as songs or images, are easily reproducible infinitely on the internet. What prevents us from reproducing the digital money in our bank accounts so easily? The reality is, most of us have been using digital money all along. It is not the digital nature of crypto that differentiates it from digital money, but rather how it ensures the ownership of digital property that marks it as transformational. The problems of digital money and who owns it are likely to increase in complexity, with far-reaching implications in everyday life. The Counter Currency Laboratory, a new initiative based in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, was established to explore these questions, including by documenting the present and future of money, and its effects on how we live.

Crypto v. Credit Cards

Commercial banks and payment networks, such as those that use credit cards, safeguard the uniqueness of our digital dollars. These institutions guarantee that we do not go around spending the same digital dollar more than once. Once we spend digital money, banks deduct it from our accounts so that it cannot be spent again.

Not a novel phenomenon, the first widely used form of digital money was credit cards with magnetic stripes, and the use of a magnetic stripe encoded with identifying information was first introduced almost 50 years ago. This form of digital money went into widespread use in the 1970s and 1980s, spurred by the invention of electronic point of sale terminals connected to computer networks managed by the likes of Visa and Mastercard

But how does this digital money work exactly? When paying for something in a store, the buyer taps their credit card on the digital terminal, and the merchant’s bank forwards the details of the credit card to the network. This credit card network requests authorization of the payment from the cardholder’s bank. The cardholder’s bank validates the cardholder’s details and the amount of available credit and then approves the purchase.

Hundreds of millions of these digital money transactions occur every day. Although such a transaction involves a buyer, a seller, two banks, and a credit card network, no physical money is actually exchanged. Rather, a series of messages are transmitted resulting in a debt incurred by the shopper to their bank and a credit in the merchant’s bank account. In this sense, the digital money used here is not a material medium of exchange, such as bills or coins, but rather a unit of account entry. This digital money is a credit or debt in the digital ledgers maintained by the banks of both the merchant and the consumer. Other forms of digital money – such as debit card transactions or e-transfers – work similarly.

No Central Authority

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, differ from the forms of digital money that are already commonly used by consumers around the world. The main difference is that when payments are made, a blockchain replaces the relationship between the two banks. (A blockchain is a list of records containing transaction data that is held in a distributed ledger, which is a digital record of the account books for crypto transactions. Ledger copies are stored and maintained by the thousands of computers that participate in the cryptocurrency network.)

While digital money poses the problem of double spending (How can one ensure that the same money in an individual’s account is spent more than once?), blockchain technology solves this problem without recourse to a central authority

In commonly used forms of digital money, the computer servers that facilitate the credit card network prevent double spending; these servers ensure that a cardholder cannot use the exact same digital dollars used for buying groceries in the supermarket to also buy a round of drinks at the pub. In the Bitcoin network, for example, any attempt to spend the same Bitcoin twice would be invalidated collectively by all the computers in the network, which would prevent any attempt to spend the same digital money in two places.

Crypto and Digital Property

With the foregoing in mind, the actual revolutionary development brought about by crypto is not necessarily the digital nature, but rather, its ability to enable the transfer of ownership of digital assets without recourse to a centralized authority. The infinite replicability enabled by the internet has challenged notions of property that have long undergirded modern civilization. In theory, the same elements of blockchain and distributed ledgers that enable the transfer of ownership of digital currencies may be able to bring order to intellectual property on the internet. Indeed, it is these aspects of crypto that may have the most lasting impact on how we live in cyberspace and the “real” world.

Daromir Rudnyckyj is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria. (This article was initially published by The Conversation.)

The Ethereum “Merge” is being touted as one of the most important events in the history of crypto, with the blockchain-based software platform describing it as “a truly exciting step in realizing the Ethereum vision – more scalability, security, and sustainability.” At its core, the highly-anticipated event, which went live on Thursday, acts as a significant software upgrade for Ethereum, bringing a new Beacon Chain proof-of-stake system into the equation in furtherance of a move to shift Ethereum’s security mechanism away from a proof-of-work method. In doing so, the Merge is expected to reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption by roughly 99.95 percent by removing the need for energy-intensive mining operations.

Looking beyond the sustainability elements that come into play with the Merge and the potential for more security and “future scaling upgrades,” there are likely to be impacts for token holders in the event that there is a post-merge hard fork (i.e., a blockchain split) that enables Ethereum miners to continue operating a proof-of-work chain. “If the Ethereum Merge results in the blockchain getting split into two chains, duplicate NFTs will exist due to the ETH proof-of-work (‘ETHPOW’) chain and other potential forks,” alongside the ETH proof-of-stake (“ETHPOS”), per Outlook, which notes that there is “likely to be some level of confusion, including around which assets are ‘official’ or ‘authentic,’” among other things.

“For many fungible ‘store of value’ tokens, hard forks have a relatively straightforward impact,” Latham & Watkins’ Jenny Cieplak, Adam Fovent, Ghaith Mahmood, Justin Tzeng, Yvette Valdez, and Stephen Wink state in a recent note. “Each chain ends up with a different version of the token, but each set of tokens is still used in a similar fashion on its respective, newly forked chain.”

The results for non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”), specifically, ones that are tied to content and thus, give holders certain usage rights in connection with the underlying artwork, are likely to be muddier. For these types of tokens, the Latham & Watkins attorneys say that “a hard fork may present challenges because it takes a single record commonly presumed to be unique and splits it in two, creating potential confusion as to how rights might be administered post-fork across the two sets of tokens.”

Such a scenario raises an array of questions, according to DLA Piper’s Mark Radcliffe, Michael Fluhr, Tom Ara and Spencer Hodson, such as, “which [of the post-fork] NFTs holds the license to the artwork that was granted to the purchaser when they bought the NFT from the creator? Does the license exist on the ETHPOW blockchain or the ETHPOS blockchain? And who decides?” Beyond that, what if the NFT holder sells the NFT to a buyer on the ETHPOW blockchain, but continues to hold the NFT on the ETHPOS blockchain, “does the license remain with the holder or transfer to the new purchaser?” 

These potential issues are intensified by the importance of the licenses attached to NFTs (both in terms of copyrights and trademarks) and the frequency with which the terms of such licenses can vary – quite widely – from one project to another. 

“In the absence of clear guidance from license agreements, the ownership of the license may be ambiguous, and disputes may arise between the parties,” according to the DLA Piper attorneys, who claim that as a matter of best practice, “NFT issuers” – and NFT-trading platforms, as well – “should provide clear guidelines on how they will deal with forks in their license agreement” – or for platforms, in their terms of service – in order “to avoid disputes later on.” 

There are examples of projects providing such guidance, they note, including the CryptoPunks License Agreement from Yuga Labs, which “expressly permits Yuga Labs to ‘designate’ which NFT on which chain holds the license agreement,” an approach that has since been adopted by the a16z Can’t Be Evil template licenses. 

Chances are, most NFT creators will “only seek to grant rights to holders of tokens on the most widely adopted, ‘mainstream’ version of the chain post-fork,” per Cieplak, Fovent, Mahmood, Tzeng, Valdez, and Wink, as granting rights to all versions of the tokens across forked chains “could reduce the uniqueness and corresponding value of such rights, or simply make it untenable for the project to allow redemptions of a single off-chain asset for duplicate tokens.” Concerns on this front are particularly pronounced for tokens that can be redeemed for items of value, such as the USDC stablecoin, thereby, prompting fintech firm Circle, for instance, to announce pre-Merge that the USD Coin “can only exist as a single valid ‘version’ and … our sole plan is to fully support the upgraded ETHPOS chain.” 

Such concerns can extend to content-linked NFTs, especially in the event that such tokens come with robust usage rights, and as such, Cieplak, Fovent, Mahmood, Tzeng, Valdez, and Wink assert that creators would benefit from making similar clarifications. “If any holder of an NFT on ‘an Ethereum chain’ could sell merchandise using the underlying NFT art,” they hypothesize, “the value of such a commercial right could be significantly diminished if two sets of tokens now hold the same rights to the same artwork.” As such, limiting rights to the most widely adopted chain could not only “preserve such uniqueness,” but could also “provide assurance to partners that might be sensitive to the degree of influence they can exert over tokens featuring their IP.” 

In order to actually implement this, they contend that “projects could state that rights associated with a particular token will only be granted to owners as recorded on the Mainnet recognized as the legitimate successor of the original chain.” 

As for platforms, Radcliffe, Fluhr, Ara, and Hodson point to precedent that allows blockchain service providers to establish their responsibilities in the event of a fork. “In Archer v. Coinbase, a California appellate court affirmed summary judgment in favor of [the Defendant] cryptocurrency exchange against a user who had claimed that the exchange was obligated to provide him access to all forked versions of the Bitcoin he had in his exchange account.” Siding with Coinbase, the court determined that its user agreement “contained no term obligating [it] to support all forks.” Following Archer, they note that “blockchain asset trading platforms (including NFT trading platforms) often expressly provide in their terms of service that they retain the right to determine which of any blockchain forks they may support.” 

But even still, the results will of a hard fork will inevitably vary. While OpenSea, for instance, says that it will be “solely supporting NFTs on the upgraded [ETHPOS] chain,” Rarible’s Standard Collectibles Sale and License Agreement specifically states that in the event of an “Ethereum Persistent Fork” that it will recognize the authenticity of copies of NFTs created in the same wallet address when they were held on Ethereum. The likely purpose of this approach, according to Cieplak, Fovent, Mahmood, Tzeng, Valdez, and Wink? It “may be beneficial to reduce consumer confusion, promote an open and inclusive ethos, and avoid forcing the project to take a stance on a contentious issue regarding what is the ‘true’ blockchain upon a fork.”

While hard forks are not without precedent in the mark, it is, nonetheless, “impossible to predict what the actual outcome will be,” Rarible’s chief strategy officer and co-founder Alex Salnikov said in a statement to Forkcast this week. “Especially for less experienced NFT collectors.”

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency without a central issuing or regulating authority, and instead, uses a decentralized system to record transactions and manage the issuance of new units, and that relies on cryptography to prevent counterfeiting and fraudulent transactions. Not an entirely novel asset (the first cryptocurrency, eCash, created back in 1990), increased adoption of currencies like Bitcoin and Ether, for instance, have brought crypto into the mainstream and made the interplay between these digital assets and trademarks an increasingly important issue. 

No longer a niche field, the global cryptocurrency market reached $1.49 billion in value in 2020 and is projected to reach $4.94 billion by 2030, according to data from the Cryptocurrency Market Outlook. With an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 12.8 percent between 2021 to 2030, continuous growth in the crypto market growth is being helped along by increased use of distributed ledger technology and rising digital investments in venture capital. At the same time, blockchain technology offers decentralized, fast, transparent, and reliable ways to conduct financial transactions, making it easier for companies to deliver high-quality services to consumers across the globe. 

With widespread embrace of crypto across the globe (the key countries when it comes to their share of cryptocurrency owners are the USA (46 million), India (27 million), Pakistan (26 million), Nigeria (22 million), and Vietnam (20 million), according to statistics compiled by TripleA) has brought with it a rise in companies looking to relevant trademark offices in order to amass registrations for their branding in relation to the digital world – albeit not without challenges in some cases. 

Existing classes of goods/services explicitly extend to cryptocurrencies and related services. For instance, crypto is covered within Class 9 (cryptocurrency hardware wallets, hardware for cryptocurrency mining, etc.), Class 36 (financial exchange, such as cryptocurrency payment processing, cryptocurrency trading service, etc.), and Class 42 (online cryptocurrency wallet, etc.). And no shortage of companies are listing these classes in connection with crypto-related applications that they lodged with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The most recent data on this front, which comes by way of intellectual property lawyer Mike Kondoudis, revealed that individuals and businesses filed more than 3,600 applications for trademarks for cryptocurrencies and crypto-related services with the USPTO as of August 31, up from 3,516 applications in all of 2021

(It is worth noting that while the U.S. and European Union trademark systems in the U.S. and the European Union are “somewhat malleable to adaptation” for novel tech, trademark-filing parties some other countries, including China, are struggling to amass registrations in light of a lack of concrete provisions for cryptocurrencies (and other categories related to virtual goods/services). 

The rapid growth in the popularity of cryptocurrencies and associated applications for crypto-focused trademarks is not without issue, thereby, giving rise to emerging trademark issues concerning the crypto market, many of which center on the following questions … 

Is cryptocurrency a type of product or service?

One of the key issues stems from the fact that trademark protection, in its traditional form, exclusively covers products and services, while cryptocurrency is better understood as a medium of exchange. Nonetheless, while cryptocurrencies, themselves, may not be registered as products or services, the name of the coin can be trademarked as either: Class 36 financial services for example: “Financial services, namely, providing a virtual currency for use by members of an online community via a global computer network;” or Class 42 as a software as a service (“SAAS”), for example: “SAAS services featuring software for clearing, allocation, compliance, recordation and settlement of trading related to bitcoins.”

Additionally, cryptocurrency-related consulting services can be classified in Class 36 as “financial consulting services,” while “educational articles, videos, blogs, or lectures on the topic of cryptocurrency” fall within Class 41 as “educational and/or entertainment services.”

Can the name of a crypto be a source identifier, even if the source is unknown?

As indicators of source, trademarks identify a single source of goods/services, which conflicts with the key logic behind cryptocurrencies. Because cryptocurrencies are generated through blockchain technology, they are fundamentally marked by the absence of any central control or ownership. Bitcoin, for example, is a decentralized cryptocurrency – hence, the controversy surrounding its trademark registration. However, where a currency is centralized, the chances of it being considered a trademark may increase since it is originated and distributed by a single known source.

Does it include creative elements to establish a certain degree of distinctiveness?

As with other forms of trademarks, the most important criterion is to ensure that a cryptocurrency-related trademark is distinctive. In other words, the trademark should not mirror an already-registered trademark in a similar field, and should be not merely descriptive. One of the most commonly-cited examples of this is, of course, Bitcoin. In 2016, BitFlyer, Inc. applied to register the word “BITCOIN” for use in connection with “computer programs employed in the field of electronic commerce transactions; computer programs; electronic machines and apparatus; telecommunication machines and apparatus.” In an Office action, an examining attorney for the USPTO refused to register the mark on the basis that it was descriptive of the goods/services at issue “in that they are used in relation to electronic commerce transactions that use bitcoin.” 

At the same time, the USPTO attorney also took issue with BitFlyer’s since-abandoned application, claiming that “in addition to being merely descriptive, the applied-for mark appears to be generic in connection with the identified services and, therefore, incapable of functioning as a source-identifier for [BitFlyer’s] services.” However, since this (and the fate of other crypto trademarks) is up for subjective analysis, some countries have registered “Bitcoin” as a legitimate trademark, like the United Kingdom Patent Office and the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office.

Igor Demcak is the CEO and Head of Legal at Trama, a trademark and brand protection firm. 

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 … 

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. 

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.