NFTs, blockchain and the metaverse are the flavors of the moment. But what are they? Do they have an impact on the real world? And above all, are they likely to have an impact on any type of intellectual property rights, including plant breeders’ rights?
Good questions, indeed. Quite complicated to answer such good questions with good answers. Before getting into the details, let’s start with the basics:
- The blockchain is a system in which a record of transactions carried out in cryptocurrency is kept on several computers linked in a peer-to-peer network
- NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is the combination of a number known as a token ID and a contact address. As the vast majority of NFT reviewers have stated, at its core, an NFT is “those two digits”, and it creates digital scarcity.
- The metaverse is a virtual reality space where users can interact with computer-generated environments and other users.
All of the above has nothing to do with the natural world, that is, the environment in which the horticultural industry operates. Despite this phenomenon, it is partly true that denying the impact of the virtual world on the ordinary world, including the horticultural and agri-food industries, would be a mistake. let’s see why
RECIPROCITY AND MUTUAL TRUST
When it comes to blockchain, the technology developed to create a parallel system of transactions where people are connected in a network based on reciprocity and mutual trust could also be useful for different purposes. This includes the dating of facts such as the development of a new variety.
In a nutshell: as soon as a breeder achieves the goal of decades-long research efforts, the need to protect against third-party interference turns into “urgent urgency”.
Blockchain could be useful not as a substitute for applying for a patent – or other types of intellectual property rights related to plant varieties – but as a way to give a date, to “make a point”.
As long as the blockchain is used exclusively as a kind of closet where to keep secrets about your new varieties, including the genetics related to them, without giving the market/potential partners access to this information, it is very useful for proving priority of the invention in the event of parallel development of new varieties.
Furthermore, it could be very useful to defend your own right to obtain the appropriate patent against unfair competitors who try to steal the result of long-term R&D investments.
As said, the blockchain is useful as long as it is a means of keeping secret, confidential the result of your research. No means that it can replace a traditional patent application. Investing time and money in building and managing an IP portfolio is the best way to pursue an innovation-driven business, even in the virtual age we live in.
Innovation is neither good nor bad; how humanity deploys it could be either.
Improper use of the blockchain could lead to pre-disclosure. For example, creating and offering for sale NFTs corresponding to a new plant variety is very likely to result in pre-disclosure of the variety itself, thus preventing the breeder from obtaining a patent.
In short, NFTs are nothing more than a means of launching a product into the market – albeit virtual. In other words, if the result of your research is disclosed publicly through an NFT, your research will not be able to lead to a patent.
OPENING UP NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
On the contrary, the appropriate use of the technology in question could open up new business opportunities for the horticultural industry.
In fact, selling NFTs of flowers and plants – including patent-protected varieties – to customers interested in hosting (or attending) parties, hosting (or attending) events in the metaverse is most likely a storyline to deal with in the years to come.
The trend is very strong for the food industry, especially for high-end and luxury products, but it is very likely that it is a kind of waiver to touch even the very consumer product range. soon.
MANAGING A DIALECTIC RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VIRTUAL AND REAL
The metaverse is built as a kind of cast copy of the ordinary world we live in. Real people who experience virtual life in the metaverse seek an environment as close to reality as possible, letting their avatars experience the virtual version of their lives. And flowers and plants are no exception; any place, including virtual, to host an event must be decorated, and flowers are therefore an essential part of this decoration.
Defending an intellectual property portfolio and the reputation of a company or a brand means managing a dialectical back and forth between the virtual and the real.