Non-Fungible Token Study

The United States Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (collectively, the "Offices") conducted a joint study as requested by Congress regarding issues of intellectual property law and policy arising from the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

On June 9, 2022, Senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis sent a letter to the Offices requesting that they conduct a joint study addressing various intellectual property law and policy issues associated with NFTs. The letter urged the Offices to "consult with the private sector, drawing from the technological, creative, and academic sectors."

On November 23, 2022, the Offices issued a Federal Register notice seeking public comments to assist in preparing the study and announcing public roundtables for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. On December 21, 2022, the Offices issued a second Federal Register notice extending the time for submitting comments and announcing new dates for the roundtables. The Offices accepted written comments through February 3, 2023.

Three public roundtables occurred as follows:

These roundtables were recorded and are available for public viewing.

On March 12, 2024, the Offices submitted their joint study to Congress. The Offices concluded that current applications of NFT technology do not require changes to intellectual property laws. Furthermore, both Offices determined that incorporating NFTs into their registration and recordation practices is not necessary or advisable at this time.

In their report, the Offices acknowledged commenters' views that NFTs may enable artists to secure remuneration for downstream resales of their works; aid trademark owners in expanding their brand appeal; or play a supportive role in the management, transfer, or licensing of intellectual property rights. They also recognized widespread concern that NFT buyers and sellers do not know what IP rights are implicated in the creation, marketing, and transfer of NFTs and that NFTs may be used to facilitate copyright or trademark infringement. The Offices determined, however, that existing statutory enforcement mechanisms are sufficient to address the infringement concerns and that product transparency and consumer education more appropriately address concerns that fall outside the realm of intellectual property laws.