Insights Metaverse: UK Intellectual Property Office publishes analysis of IP landscape


The UK Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”) has published research figures for the number of patent and trade mark filings related to the metaverse. The IPO states that IP trends can provide a useful evidence base to track emerging technologies enabling development of regulation with an awareness of its wider impact.

For the purposes of the research, the IPO adopted the definition of “metaverse” used by the Government in its consultation document “Enabling a national cyber-physical infrastructure to catalyse innovation”: “a specific type of cyber-physical system, particularly focused on the immersive visual integration of the physical and digital worlds for collaboration, entertainment, socialisation and the accessing of virtual services and operations.” Generally, access to a metaverse environment is through hardware such as a head-mounted device supplemented by appropriate software.

Using a combination of relevant keywords and International Patent (IPC) and Cooperative Patent (CPC) classifications, the IPO looked specifically for international patent families (“IPFs”), patent applications filed in at least two different authorities (an approach adopted by the IPO in order to focus on inventions deemed important enough for the applicant to seek international protection). Between 2000 and 30 June 2023, a total of 71,738 IPFs were found which relate to the metaverse. The most popular inventor location is the US, followed by Japan. The UK ranks sixth. Qualcomm owns the most IPFs in relation to the metaverse, followed by Huawei. In the UK, Sony owns the most IPFs, followed by Qualcomm.

Israel and India show the highest degree of specialism relating to metaverse IPFs, measured by comparing the number of metaverse IPFs against the total number of patents filed in the relevant country, with the USA and UK ranking fifth and seventh respectively.

The trade mark research focused on the UK only. Filtering the trade mark specification field for each application in the IPO’s database of 4.1m applications against a list of core terms, the research found 31,503 UK trade mark applications that matched the core terms filed between 2000 and 30 June 2023. Trends include an increasing number of service trade mark applications and increasing use of a “virtual reality” related word or phrase in the trade mark’s description field, a term used more often than “metaverse”. The top applicant is Sky Limited followed by Huawei.

The figures also show a significant increase in both patent and trade mark activity in relation to the metaverse in recent years.

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