In Second Life, selling avatars that look like celebrities and apparel that mimics couture designs is big business — a mainstay of the world’s $450 million dollar virtual economy. And if a brand (or a celeb) found out that someone was using their name to make money (like the avatar that looks like Storm, from Marvel’s X-men, pictured), they’d have to take the time and effort to contact the seller, and then sue to get them to stop, if necessary.
But now that Linden Lab owns and operates Second Life’s most popular virtual goods trading site, the company faces increasing potential liability for trademark infringement suits as well, so it issued new guidelines explicitly prohibiting the sale of unauthorized virtual copies of real-world goods.
Linden Lab has already been sued by stun gun-manufacturer Taser, after the company found out that Second Life merchants were selling branded “Tasers” for use in violent roleplay (per New World Notes).
The new rules seem like a preemptive strike against future suits — possibly serving as a first defense — since Linden Lab can claim that it tries to prevent trademark infringement from the onset. But with millions of pieces of virtual merchandise up for sale both in-world and on the web-based Xstreet SL marketplace, making sure the sellers adhere to the rules will be a monstrous task.