Brands Are For Real, Even When They’re Not

In an eye opening lawsuit filed Tuesday by online entrepreneur Kevin Alderman against Linden Lab, operators of the virtual reality website Second Life, Alderman claims the defendant is allowing other virtual marketers to knock off his firm’s virtual products and infringe upon his intellectual property rights.

As reported by Media Post , Alderman’s suit says his “virtual erotic SexGen products have been counterfeited, cloned, and ripped off countless times by a multitude of Second Life residents.”

Alderman has reason to be upset. He’s apparently made more than $1 million selling his products on the site. If the court decides that Second Life has failed in its duty to protect his intellectual property, he stands to earn substantial damages, not to mention additional profits by virtue (no pun intended) of maintaining the integrity of his brand online.

There are so many thought provoking aspects of this case, legal, cultural, technological and otherwise. But the one I find most fascinating is this: a brand is a brand is a brand, even if it’s embodied in an imaginary product sold on a site that runs on fantasy.

Alderman’s products — constructed of only the highest quality electrons I suppose — are popular among the denizens of Second Life. That means they deliver real benefits (emotional, self-expressive and functional) in a reliable and consistent manner. Sounds like a brand to me.

Am I missing something? If you have a different point of view, I would love to hear it!

Michael Gold

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