Eversheds jump on the bandwagon

Eversheds jump on the bandwagon. UK-based legal firm Eversheds issued a report today titled ‘Retailers need to be aware of fakes in the virtual world’.

Nothing strange about that. Plenty of companies are applying their expertise into virtual worlds now. However, having read the report it highlights a distinct lack of understanding of the dynamics surrounding Second Life (in particular).

The report highlights the unlawful trademark infringement taking place with unofficial brand representation….

‘Many brand owners such as BMW and Jean-Paul Gautier have decided to have a brand presence in Second Life.’

Incorrect. Jean-Paul Gautier ran a tactical campaign (Fleur du Male) in Second Life on third-party land. This was a one-off event which ended many months ago. Also, there are currently no retailers in Second Life promoting JPG products via the search functionality, nor there is no official JPG presence in SL.

‘if a replica product underperforms and is badly designed, this can be damaging to that brand’s reputation’

I’m not quite sure what the author means by ‘underperforms’. Virtual world products do not work in the same way as real world products. Cars do not stall. Shirts to not shrink. Food does not go stale. Also, given the highly competitive nature, not to mention fanatical attention to detail of the vast majority of designers in SL, the last thing the product will be is badly designed.

‘Even with the support of Linden Labs, it may transpire that the name and address of the real person behind the virtual identity could be fictitious’

There goes the ‘s’ again.

All in all, a very quick and dirty attempt to position themselves as an authority on virtual worlds. Now sure, companies issue these types of report in order to generate potential new business but the bottom line here is accuracy and a rounded opinion. This report misses the mark unfortunately.

The bigger picture here is that companies have to implement a planned and measured strategy for virtual brand management because collaboration with SL designers replicating real-world brands can potentially yield significant benefits for brand owners. There are several stages to consider:

1. Ignore

2. Remove

3. Observe

4. Endorse

5. Engage.

Furthermore, the comparison to real world counterfeiting is not valid. Real world companies do not have virtual world product-driven revenue streams (yet) so they are not losing money. And, if you actually look at a lot of the products replicated in SL, they are not the same types of products copied in the real world. Take a stroll down the streets of Bangkok and you’re not going to see any dodgy looking Ferraris, but you’ll find plenty in Second Life.