How can design patents relating to the metaverse be protected in Taiwan? – Commentary

Introduction
Design patent protection related to metaversion
Comment

Introduction

In the metaverse, people can communicate, work, enjoy leisure activities, and shop with their friends, family, and even strangers through technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The rise of metaversion is expected to change people’s lifestyle to some extent.

According to Article 121(1) of the Taiwan Patent Law, the term “design” means the creation – namely the shape, pattern, color or any combination thereof – of a product as a whole or a part thereof.

This article examines how design patents related to the metaverse can be protected in Taiwan.

Design patent protection related to metaversion

Designs regarding the material device used to access the metaverse (eg, VR glasses) are no different from designs for other material products with three-dimensional shapes. They are therefore patentable subject matter for a design patent and the documents required for filing are the same as for other designs. Furthermore, according to the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO)(1), product designs with three-dimensional shapes are not classified as metaverse design patents. Instead, TIPO classifies metaverse design patents into three categories based on their characteristics:

  • virtual space (eg non-physical space seen through VR glasses) – the preparation of drawings for this category can be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of design patent drawings for “interior designs” in the Patent Examination Guidelines;
  • virtual items (eg game treasures and non-fungible tokens) – drawing preparation for this category may be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of design patent drawings for “ordinary items” in the Patent Examining Guidelines; and
  • human-machine interface (eg operational interface) – the preparation of drawings for this category may be presented in a manner similar to the presentation of design patent drawings for “graphical user interface (GUI)” in the patent examination guidelines.
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These three categories of metaverse design patents should be labeled “computer program products” in the specification to make them distinguishable from physical product design patents. This is because TIPO recognizes that non-physical product designs are software-generated digital designs and that “computer program products” are the source of such digital designs. In 2020, TIPO defined products covered by such digital designs as “computer program products” by amending its patent examination guidelines.

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Comment

Currently, the number of applications and/or approvals for metaverse design patents both in Taiwan and abroad is still small, indicating that the metaverse is still in its early stages. The mentioned TIPO article indicates that Taiwan takes an open stance on metaverse design patent applications and has provided relevant guidelines for applications.

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Nevertheless, it is clear that the metaversion will continue to evolve. Meanwhile, major international companies (such as Meta, Microsoft, and NVIDIA) have recently created the Metaverse Standards Forum, which aims to standardize the metaverse industry. In response to this trend, countries are expected to gradually open up or further relax the conditions for filing metaverse design patents in the foreseeable future.

For more information on this topic, please contact Michael Sun at Lee and Li Attorneys at Law by phone (+886 2 2763 8000) or by e-mail ([email protected]). Lee and Li’s website is available at www.leeandli.com.

Final remarks

(1) “The Relationship Between Metaverse and Design Patents”, 13 June 2022.

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