Second Lifeâ€™s â€˜Aimee Weberâ€™ (Alyssa LaRoche) recently became the first avatar with a registered trademark. The application for the registered mark was filed February 18, 2007 approved for publication July 7, and published for opposition August 14. According to â€˜Weber,â€™ no opposition was filed, and she plans to immediately begin using the mark. In a sea of often silly metaverse firsts, this one could well signal a trend. â€˜Weberâ€™ runs a respected design studio in-world, has one of the most recognizable avatars in Second Life, and literally wrote the book on Second Life content creation. And now she gets to wear â€œTMâ€ bling too.
A trademarked [sic] avatar, though novel, shouldnâ€™t really be a surprise. McDonaldâ€™s trademarked Ronald, so there is no reason an avatar â€” for many users, a computer generated representation of their brand â€” could not also be trademarked. The rather distinct appearance of avatar â€˜Aimee Weberâ€™ is indisputably identified with the brand. And â€˜Aimee Weberâ€™ is as much a Second Life icon as she is a person you chat with at a virtual coffee shop or hire for design work; the little â€œTMâ€ just makes that official.
Well, isn’t it the ® that makes it official? Why, “TM”‘s aren’t official at all! Anyway, I do appreciate the Ronald McDonald analogy. But I just want readers to be clear that while Aimee Weber is essentially an alter ego for real person Alyssa LaRoche, by Ronald there isn’t really a traveling hamburger clown. Take it from me. They wouldn’t lie about why Ronald never returned my fan mail.
It does make you wonder if everyone’s “avatar” should be registered as a trademark, too, even if they’re not so virtual-worldy. Brand equity’s not for nothing, you know! So?
I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that. Some of us are inimitable, and so are our animated versions. Besides, as Alyssa LaRoche told Duranske, “Itâ€™s a general move to protect my brand. We havenâ€™t seen any problems yet, but prior to the trademark [registration], we wouldnâ€™t have been as well protected if somebody wanted to plaster my image all over an unrelated product.” Right. So, when we start seeing bad people passing off unrelated goods and services as those of LOC, we’ll have to consider our options.