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Selling sneakers in the digital age

Digital assets like NFTs can be very helpful in proving the authenticity of products. But what if an NFT itself is inauthentic? Find out how to protect your brand in that case.

When shopping for shoes, people tend to buy essential accessories like extra shoelaces, shoe shine, or even waterproofing spray along with their main purchase.

Well, if you happen to be shopping at Flowers for Society (FFS), a brand-new sneaker brand based in Germany, you’ll get a very different side-product: an NFT. Flowers for Society provides an NFT with each sneaker purchased that allows the bearer access to the company’s own metaverse: the Garden of Comfort.

This, according to the FFS website, will be a “a digital playground where collectors and sneakerheads from all over the world come together. An exclusive community with limited access that turns the principles of the offline world upside down. Buy, collect, swap, trade - anything is possible in our digital ecosystem.”

What is an NFT

Quick detour: if you somehow managed to evade running into the term NFT or non-fungible token, here’s a short definition.

Introduced in 2014, an NFT “is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos.” Each NFT has a unique identifying code, which works as a built-in authenticating system. Possessing an NFT is essentially proof that a person owns the product the token represents.

NFTs work on the same principle as cryptocurrencies and are also recorded on the blockchain. However, thanks to their unique nature, NFTs are not interchangeable and thus don’t function as regular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The authentication character of NFTs works with both digital and physical objects. For example, digital artist Beeple sold a collage of his work called “Everydays - The first 5000 days” as an NFT for $69 million.

And for physical objects? Let’s take a closer look at FFS’s new sneakers.

Screenshot of https://ffs.onvrtkl.com/ displaying a Seed.One sneaker
Screenshot of https://ffs.onvrtkl.com/ displaying a Seed.One sneaker

A Garden of Comfort

FFS currently sells one model of sneaker: the Seed.One. As mentioned previously, all buyers receive an NFT along with their shoes that will allow them access to FFS’s own version of the metaverse, Garden of Comfort.

This space is created for sneaker collectors, fans and NFT investors and allows them to participate in exclusive collaborations, limited editions, special events and more.

In addition, since the value of NFTs is generally expected to rise, these tokens are also considered as an investment that can be traded on Opensea, the world’s first and currently largest NFT marketplace. Later on, FFS wants to limit trading to the Garden of Comfort.

Proven original

That Seed.One sneakers come equipped with their own NFTs has another, huge added value: their authenticity is guaranteed. Today, when sneakers represent more than mere footwear to collectors, it’s getting harder to acquire original branded pairs at a reasonable price.

There are several reasons for that.

First of all, fraudsters and counterfeiters know an opportunity when they see one and they try to sell fake shoes as the real deal. No wonder that eBay has set up sneaker authentication centers to provide proof of originality to customers.

And second of all, let’s not forget about scalpers. These people purchase coveted pairs of sneakers as soon as they hit the market, and since they’re using sophisticated bots, they can literally buy every available pair in the blink of an eye. Then they offer those same pairs back to real fans at a much higher price.

Possessing an FFS NFT along with your pair of sneakers is effective proof that you have an original product that you acquired legitimately.

But, as recent events show, even NFTs can be “fake”.

Unauthorized NFTs vs trademark

At the beginning of February, Nike took an online retailer, StockX, to court for violating its trademark rights. Apparently, StockX sold digital versions of Nike shoes as NFTs to customers, promising them that they’ll be able to exchange the tokens for real sneakers at some point in the future.

Since this wasn’t authorized by Nike, it may infringe on the company’s IP rights. StockX made money with Nike’s brand name and product images without the brand’s consent and participation, thus the over 500 NFTs sold this way have a negative impact on Nike’s revenue and its reputation with customers.

It’s understandable that people who bought the NFTs may become upset to learn that they’ve been tricked into buying digital “Nike” goods that have, in fact, nothing to do with the brand.

It’s fortunate that Nike put a stop to this so quickly and prevented any further damage. But what if nobody noticed the fraud? How long could it have gone on?

Unfortunately, as our experience shows, for quite a long time. And with each additional day, the damage caused by the infringement multiplies.

Protect your IP-assets

There are two solutions to this situation. One, you can scour the internet every day, looking for unauthorized product listings, images, domain names, etc. involving your brand and/or products’ names.

Or two, you can let us take care of that.

globaleyez specializes in the detection and removal of IP-infringing content from marketplaces, social media, app stores, domain registries and registrars, and the internet in general.

Combining decades-long intuitive human experience with state-of-the-art software tools, we quickly detect infringing content, and provide you with extensive reports as well as actionable expert advice on next steps.

And that covers new types of digital assets and spaces as well. Using keyword-based searches on NFT marketplaces like Opensea or the metaverse in general, we can discover NFTs claiming to be associated with your brand. Should that prove to be untrue, we can enforce your rights and ensure the removal of the offending NFTs just like any other IP-infringing content.

If you’re worried about unauthorized NFTs circulating online or any other trademark-related issue, get in touch with globaleyez and let us create your personalized online brand protection program together.

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