The most valuable painting in the world is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a fabric merchant in Florence. In English, this masterpiece painted by Leonardo da Vinci is known as the Mona Lisa. In 1962, the painting was insured for $100 million. Based on that estimate, today the Mona Lisa is worth nearly $1 billion.
How can a painting hold such a tremendous value? Aside from its artistic merit, there is another simple but no less important feature that makes the Mona Lisa so valuable: its uniqueness. While many perfect copies of the Mona Lisa are available, it was not painted by Leonardo’s hand. In short, there will never be another Mona Lisa.
Today, many artists have given up their brushes and palettes for digital painting tools, tablets, and editing software, all with incredible creative potential. However, the value of digital artwork created with these awesome tools is very limited due to the fact that most digital artworks are not unique. Unlike hand-drawn brush strokes on physical canvas, each digital artist’s pen “brush stroke” is recorded in an electronic format that can be easily and accurately copied, so that each copy is visually indistinguishable from the original. Thus, for many, digital art lacks the unique quality that makes physical paintings desirable.
Given the ease of copying digital art, it may come as a surprise to learn that a digital photo file was recently sold for the equivalent of $69.3 million. The work, titled EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, is a composite of 5,000 images created by the popular digital artist known as Beeple. Unlike the Mona Lisa, every day is not unique; It’s a jpg image of 21,069 x 21,069 pixels that can easily be duplicated, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to authenticate the “original” jpg file from any digital copies. So why is this .jpg image so valuable? The answer is largely due to the “non-fungible token” or “NFT” that was sold with the EVERYDAYS artwork.
NFT is not a digital image, video, or other multimedia asset. Alternatively, like a car title deed or a home title deed, the NFT verifies that the owner of the NFT also has rights to the assets covered by the NFT. Unlike a .jpg image or any other digital artwork, NFTs are inherently unique and cannot be copied and pasted. For this reason, NFT owners hope that the NFT will retain its value as an authentication device when combined with digital art to ensure the authenticity and distinction of digital art. While the long-term value of NFTs remains to be seen, in the short term, some combinations of NFTs have been very successful.
For example, in April of 2021, a group of digital artists started selling a set of images of bored looking monkeys. Each monkey drawing has unique features. For example, a boring monkey wears a leather flying helmet and a sailor’s striped shirt, has long yellow hair and an eye-catching blue eye. The Bored Ape Yacht group has been a hit with celebrities like Steph Curry, Shaquille O’Neal, DJ Steve Aoki and Mark Cuban. Today, if you want to join this exclusive digital club, the cheapest boring monkey is available for sale at a price of 95 thousand dollars. Furthermore, due to the “smart contracts” embedded in the NFTs that authenticate and make the BAYC group unique, the company that created the group gets a share of the proceeds whenever a boring monkey is sold or resold.
For digital artists hoping to capitalize on the NFT trend, gaining trademark protection can be an invaluable tool for preserving the uniqueness and value of the artist’s name and NFT collection. For example, Yugo Labs, the company behind Bored Ape Yacht Club, has filed more than 20 trademark applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office in connection with this NFT suite. These apps seek to protect the group’s original name, acronyms such as BAYC, the group logo, and even variants such as MUTANT APE YACHT CLUB, as they are used with a variety of goods and services, including artwork, digital collectibles, social networking services, clothing, jewelry, games, and even beer . Protecting these trademarks is important because they are used to help distinguish legitimate Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs from trademarks that are confusingly similar or imitation.
In short, the value of the NFT group can be protected and enhanced by being differentiated and this trademark protected through federal trademark registration. This recording can then be used as a shield to protect against counterfeit, fake and confusing NFT tags. If you would like to work with an experienced trademark attorney to protect your NFT group name or other trademark assets, we invite you to contact our team today.