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Ford files trademark applications for virtual cars and NFT marketplace in potential metaverse push

September 9, 2022, 4:46 PM UTC
Ford CEO Jim Farley
Ford filed 19 metaverse- and Web3-related trademark applications.
Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Ford, the largest U.S.-based automaker by sales, is preparing for its entry into the metaverse with 19 trademark applications for everything from virtual cars to an NFT marketplace.

The Michigan-based car manufacturer’s filings include applications to protect virtual versions of its vehicles as well as digital clothing and vehicle parts and accessories to be used in “virtual worlds,” including trade shows in virtual or augmented reality. The company also filed a trademark application for NFTs that could feature artwork, text, audio, and video of its cars, SUVs, trucks, and vans.

Ford also may be considering its own NFT marketplace based on a trademark application for a website to promote “the digital artwork of others by means of providing online portfolios,” and which would offer “retail store services featuring non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital collectibles.”

Ford did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.

The company’s recent trademark filings are part of a larger trend of companies jumping onto the metaverse bandwagon. Since Facebook parent company Meta rebranded last year to reflect its growing metaverse ambitions, companies have started to seriously consider incorporating virtual worlds into their businesses. 

A study this week by trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis, who also tweeted about the Ford filings, found that some 4,150 applications have been filed for metaverse or virtual “goods/services” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through Aug. 31—dwarfing the 1,866 applications filed in all of 2021.

Trademark applications have slowed in the past few months as crypto prices have slumped, but Kondoudis told Fortune that many companies still see the metaverse as a growth area.

“Some see the metaverse as the next internet or at least the next evolutionary step of the internet,” Kondoudis told Fortune in an email. “They expect it to grow into a substantial market and that there will be many ways to monetize it.”

Still, other companies may just be mimicking competitors or trying to avoid potential legal issues by not jumping on the metaverse trend early, even if it doesn’t ultimately pan out.

“For now, it is an open question whether a trademark registration for physical goods, for example, will protect a brand for corresponding virtual goods in the metaverse,” Kondoudis told Fortune. “Think running shoes versus computer code that renders the image of a shoe in the metaverse. Is the trademark registration infringed?”