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NFTs of Olive Garden, Hermes Are the First Metaverse Turf Battles

NFTs of Olive Garden, Hermes Are the First Metaverse Turf Battles
Written by publishing team

  • Artists and brands are fighting over who has the right to sell non-fungible tokens.
  • Olive Garden, Hermès and Miramax have all taken legal action against NFT projects that the companies say infringe their trademark or contractual rights.
  • The Non-Fungible Olive Gardens Project and MetaBirkin NFT have both been pulled from the popular OpenSea marketplace after legal letters from corporate lawyers.

For Brian Moore and Mike Lacher, Olive Garden restaurants—with their unlimited breadsticks and the vibrancy of every family member—are the epitome of inclusivity.

So when the two digital artists wanted to create a collection of NFT art that would feel accessible and not intimidating to the average person, they turned to their favorite casual dining restaurant for inspiration. The 880 “non-fungible olive gardens” created by Moore and Lascher are digital images of real-life Olive Garden restaurants, each one encrypted on the blockchain as a unique asset.

Artists sold each NFT, or non-fungible token, for $19.99 (the “Tour of Italy” entry price at Olive Garden restaurants), created additional NFTs from the breadsticks they gave out for free, and helped grow the business.


The community where people played the role of dining at the famous Italian-American restaurant.

Ten days later, Olive Garden makes it clear that it does not consider artists, or NFTs, to be part of the family.

On December 30, Darden Restaurants, the owner of the olive garden, sent a notice of removal to OpenSea, the popular NFT trading platform where collectors were selling non-bred olive gardens. OpenSea has kicked regulators off the platform and banned sales of NFTs, putting the burgeoning community of online Olive Garden fans at odds with the very brand they gathered to celebrate.

Cease-and-desist letters and legal threats are increasingly common amid the sudden frenzy of NFTs. In some cases, artists are forced to play cops, hunting down scammers who create NFT versions of existing artwork to sell as their own. Most important is the collision between corporate brands and artists with conflicting views on the purpose and value of NFTs.

What was once a fairly clear distinction between fair use of a company’s trademark or trademark in a work of art (think Andy Warhol’s Campbell series of soup cans) versus commercial misappropriation of the brand to deceive customers (think fake jeans) has been blurred. Because of the rise of blockchain technology and the scramble for a claim in the metaverse.

NFT for luxury watches, like Rolex, is digital art in the eyes of the beholder. For the watchmaker thinking of trading in new virtual worlds, that digital watch is another version of their product – the kind of virtual goods that could one day be the basis for a thriving business in the metaverse.

Four NFT sections that are not molded into olive gardens show the exteriors of restaurants with pasta wallpapers.

Non-Fungible Olive Gardens

screenshot / zora

Right now, the virtual worlds in which we all buy accessories and possessions for our digital avatars are still largely in the works, but a number of companies — from French fashion house Hermès to Hollywood studio Miramax — are seeking to squash sales of their brand-related NFTs. The disputes are an early example of the new challenges and unresolved questions that are likely to become more frequent as the Internet evolves into an immersive blockchain-based world.

“This is a moving stream of innovation and evolution,” Mason Rothschild, the artist who created images of Hermès Birkin bags covered in fur, wrote in an open letter to Hermès in December after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the fashion company. . “Your actions can help determine the future of art in the Metaverse.”

“fake” wallets in metaverse

Rothchild’s so-called MetaBirkins became such a hit that the higher-priced MetaBirkin NFT sold for $45,000. The whole group has it now

market cap

$1.2 million, according to NFT’s Raribles Marketplace, as the project moved on after its name was delisted from OpenSea.

In his letter to Hermès, Rothschild argued that selling MetaBirkins as NFTs is “similar to selling them as physical art prints,” a means in which the unauthorized use of trademarks or copyrighted material is protected by fair use law.

“It should not be my business to inform you of the latest developments in the world and the culture of art,” Rothschild wrote in the open letter.

White gloved hands lock the pink Hermes Birkin bag

Pink Birkin bag from Hermes.

from the inside

NFTs are digital ledgers associated with specific pieces of digital content. It can be used to track ownership, and has found traction in the digital art community, including with some gallery owners and art collectors using technology to trace the provenance or ownership of art, making it a useful tool in a world where anyone can download copies of digital art pieces from Internet.

Many brands are beginning to see the potential of being in the metaverse, where owning a digital storefront or selling digital products like NFTs can mean getting in front of a new generation of customers. Some companies like Nike, which recently acquired digital sneaker maker NFT, have taken steps toward selling digital versions of the products they sell in the real world.

“In the metaverse, we are all world builders,” Cathy Hackle, CEO of Futures Intelligence Group, said in a recent interview with Insider’s Carrie McMahon. “And now is the time to start building. Whether you are a content creator, whether you are a brand or a company, now is the time to start figuring out how to start building for it? What are the building blocks?”

Cal Raustila, an intellectual property researcher and professor at UCLA School of Law, said the law has traditionally favored innovators like Rothschilds. But he cautioned that these criteria could change if any of these specific NFT cases are brought before a judge.

“I think the big problem on the horizon goes beyond the NFTs,” Raustila said. “It’s about how brands work in the metaverse and what does it mean to have brands on digital goods?”

Previous instances that could provide guidance are rare. In 2016, movie theater chain Cinemark sued Roblox because some users created virtual cities within Roblox that included Cinemark theatres. The case was dismissed after two months without any public decision.

It is unclear whether Hermès or Darden took any legal action to prevent NFT projects from spreading outside OpenSea. Darden declined to comment. Hermès did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither company has taken serious steps to launch projects of their own in the metaverse either.

The company told the Financial Times that Hermès prefers to focus on “the tangible expression of physical, handcrafted objects”.

“NFTs infringe on Hermès’ intellectual property and trademark rights and are an example of fake Hermès products in the metaverse,” Hermès told the Financial Times.

The Next Big Battle: Pulp Fiction

One of the more famous controversies involving NFTs will be in the spotlight this week, when film director Quentin Tarantino attempts to sell NFT copies of the script for the groundbreaking 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.”

The Tarantino NFT Collection includes seven unique NFTs that will give owners access to digital images of the original, handwritten movie script, as well as Tarantino’s previously unreleased audio commentary. The Hollywood studio that produced the Miramax film sued Tarantino in November, seeking to block the sale.

In the lawsuit, Miramax argues that Tarantino’s NFT project violates a contract signed by the parties in 1993. While that contract reserves Tarantino’s right to make money off text from things like print books and interactive media, it does not explicitly mention NFTs, which are not Invented only two decades after the release of the film.

Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino Uma Thurman Can

Lawrence Bender, Uma Thurman, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta and Kelly Preston in 2014.

Pascal Le Segretan / Getty Images

But the contract gives Miramax “all” other rights, which its lawyers interpret as including the development, marketing and sale of NFTs.

“It’s kind of a variety garden contract dispute, but it has a twist in the NFT,” said Raustila of the University of California. The question, he said, is whether Tarantino’s contract with Miramax allows him to sell one version of the script.

Tarantino did not give in. In its response to the lawsuit, lawyers accused the director Miramax of using “the concept of NFTs to confuse the public and mislead this court in an effort to deprive artists like Tarantino of their hard-earned and long-running rights.”

Bidding on the group’s first NFT is scheduled to begin on January 17th.

You can’t just ban fans

The high expectations driving the NFT market are evident in OpenSea, the leading platform for buying and selling digital assets, which was recently valued by private investors at $13.3 billion. OpenSea’s approach to trademark disputes thus far has been to take the path of least resistance.

In response to questions about the removal of MetaBirkins and Non-Fungible Olive Gardens, the company responded with information about its policy on stolen content.

“One of our operating principles is to support creators and their fans by deterring plagiarism and theft on our platform,” OpenSea spokesperson Abram Smith told Insider in the statement. “To that end, selling NFTs using stolen content, which we regularly enforce in various ways, including account deletion and, in some cases, blocking, is against our policy.”

However, legal messages have not been enough to completely remove non-bred olive gardens from the Internet. Olive Garden’s NFTs are still trading on other platforms, and new NFTs can still be minted from the project site. Italian music is still playing around the clock on NFOG Discord.

Moore and Lacher hope that Darden will change her mind. Moore told Insider they see themselves “on the Olive Garden side” and want to be, “for lack of a better term, part of the family.”

But if that doesn’t work, Moore said, he’s sure the NFOG community will find a way forward.

He said, “You can’t dissolve society. You can’t just ban them.” “They are fans of the olive garden.”

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