International – Trademark owners beware: augmented reality can pollute your brand

There’s a new form of trademark infringement on the horizon. For the past few years, brand owners have been scratching their heads over what to do when third parties use their trademarks in online games and virtual worlds. The merging of parody, free speech and trademark infringement has led brands into some murky waters. Now programmers have come up with a new way to play with brand value: augmented reality.

It is an innovation that connects the real world with the virtual world: for example, physical branded products can be augmented in real-time with digital images. Point your camera phone at the logo on a BP service station and the screen displays the now infamous Helios with a gushing oil pipe bursting from its centre. This topical example is the basis for the first brand application of the system.

However, while augmented reality is already in use on smartphones and other devices, the brand and trademark implications are yet to be explored fully. “As augmented reality technologies become more prevalent, we will see increasingly innovative uses of brands, by brand owners and others. Much of this activity will be creative and positive, but some of it may also be unauthorized, and potentially damaging,” says David Naylor, partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse. “Aside from the sheer increase in the number of issues that can be expected, we also anticipate that new categories of business will potentially get caught up in disputes: for example, the developers of augmented reality applications. We’re also looking into whether the combination of mobility and augmented reality will create new substantive issues that have not yet been addressed in the law or by the courts.”

Potential threats aside, augmented reality provides brands with a huge opportunity. Shrewd brand owners can develop applications of augmented reality that support their brand strategies and bring trademarks to life in new ways. A consumer may be able to enhance their pair of Nike trainers, which could appear on the screen of their smartphone with all manner of additions, be it a flashing swoosh or winged soles.

Naturally, this will be done by marketers and IT experts but trademark managers will have to ensure they are involved in the discussion to ensure the marks are used appropriately. Augmented reality might also beg the question: are motion marks about to take on a whole new life force?


About markskwarek

homepage Mark Skwarek is an artist working to bridge the gap between virtual and physical world with augmented reality. His art explores the translation our everyday digital experience into the physical world using mobile augmented reality. Skwarek earned his M.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design's Digital Media Department. He is full time faculty at New York University's School of Engineering, the CEO of Semblance Augmented Reality and the director of NYU's Mobile Augmented Reality Lab. He teaches 3D Graphics and the Augmented Reality Grad Class. He organized the augmented reality artist group manifest.AR, the arOCCUPYWALLSTREET movement, and co-organized We AR in MoMA. Skwarek’s practice is also largely based in art activism with emerging technologies. He has a long record of international augmented reality work, ranging from “erasing” the DMZ battlements between North and South Korea (a piece he did on site), to the virtual elimination of the barricades between Palestine and Israel, at the Gaza Strip. He has created political work and symbols in a variety of locations across the United States, including pieces at Wall St., U.S. Mexico Border and the White House to name a few. His artwork has been written about by the New York Times, Art in America, Boing Boing, WIRED, the Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, NPR, BBC, the Discovery Channel, Leonardo, and Creative Capital. Skwarek has exhibited in various venues, including: the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; ISEA; Dumbo Arts Festival, UCLA Digital Grad Gallery; the CyberArts Festival; the Sunshine International Art Museum, Beijing; and the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois, FACT in Liverpool England, Siggraph 2013, The 2013 Augmented World Expo, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Kasa Galeri, and Contemporary Istanbul.
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One Response to International – Trademark owners beware: augmented reality can pollute your brand

  1. Pingback: *Augmented Reality: Are The Doctrines Developed for Search Engines Applicable? « Austrotrabant's Blog

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