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Mr. Peanut and Pulp Fiction — NFTs and the Metaverse

Jul 29, 2022 | Firm News, Trademark

Famous products from Hormel Foods are headed to the metaverse — and the company is looking to bring their IP along, too.  

The company is seeking trademark protections for NFTs and other virtual products relating to Spam, Planters, Skippy, Mr. Peanut and Hormel.  

NFT stands for non-fungible token, and it is proof of ownership of a digital asset. Non-fungible means that a product is unique on its own and cannot be replaced by something else. A fungible asset would be something that you could trade for the exact same thing. For example, trading one bitcoin for another bitcoin would net you the exact same thing: one bitcoin. 

Bust of Apollo wearing virtual reality goggles in vaporwave aesthetic

Hormel Foods, an Austin, MN-based company, is joining the likes of Kraft Heinz, Conagra Brands and Coca-Cola as major food companies to make this move toward the new digital dimension.  

According to July 6 filings made with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the trademarks seek to cover digital products like photos and videos and “downloadable virtual goods, namely food and beverage products for use in virtual worlds.”  

Well-put by the Hastings Tribune: “Mr. Peanut is headed to the metaverse.” And while it is unclear how Hormel will deploy the marks (if granted), you can bet that other restaurants, food brands or grocery stores will be seeking digital protection of their brands in the metaverse. 

Read more about this story, including some legal analysis, here. 

Tarantino sued over Pulp Fiction NFT sale

In separate NFT-related news, the renowned film director Quentin Tarantino is involved in a legal spat with the movie studio that owns the copyright to his 1994 hit movie, “Pulp Fiction.”  

A federal judge in Los Angeles heard an oral argument in Miramax LLC v. Tarantino et al. on July 21. The movie studio, Miramax, filed suit against Tarantino prior to the director’s sale of a “Pulp Fiction” NFT worth than $1 million. The company alleges that the NFT references the movie that the studio made using Tarantino’s handwritten screenplay. 

The director had a licensing deal with the studio that gave him rights to market the script but nothing else from the movie. 

Female (Uma Thurman) and male (John Travolta) dancing in the movie Pulp Fiction

Tarantino’s lawyers argue that the NFTs represent “specific digital content” that he had a right to license, namely “screenplay scans” of his script. They will argue that the NFT does not belong to the studio — even though they own the copyright to “Pulp Fiction.” 

Miramax’s lawyers argue that none of the terms of the 1993 licensing agreement “would have been understood in 1993 to include digital collectibles depicting visual images of parts of an earlier draft screenplay.” 

The crucial question: what kind of copyright-protected expression do NFTs garner? This case will seek to determine how NFTs fit into federal copyright law. 

Read more about this story from Law360. 

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