It is paradoxical that the intellectual property system - designed to stimulate and protect innovation - sometimes fails to keep up with the rate of technological development. In the world of patents we have seen this happen many times, it has taken Europe 40 years to apply its patent law satisfactorily to software inventions, and there are still major problems with medicines and telecoms.
Gaming could be next, especially as virtual worlds become, as it were, more and more real. Queen Mary University of London held a conference recently that addressed this issue, arrived at some useful conclusions, but also raised fascinating new challenges.
Protection of the technologies enabling virtual reality is no trouble. But within virtual reality worlds, this had people scratching heads. Sir Robin Jacob asked how you'd register a trade mark for a virtual handbag. Scott Kelly of Banner & Witcoff discussed what happened when someone copied a weapon from a game in real life. Our Chairman, Gwilym Roberts, asked how you could patent something obeying laws of virtual rather than real nature. The audience even considered how you might protect the sensation of travelling in time.
Not many of these questions were answered. However, at least we are looking at these issues now, rather than struggling with them when they're a real, not a virtual, problem.