January 27th, 2008 by Benjamin Duranske
A new, non-profit, legal services organization, the Virtual Intellectual Property Organization (VIPO), has opened in Second Life. VIPO advertises that it offers “accessible legal advice concerning virtual property, trade and commerce and the use of real life intellectual property in virtual worlds.” VIPO is the brainchild of Tamiko Franklin (Second Life’s ‘Juris Amat’). Franklin was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Antioch College, and a J.D. and Master of Intellectual Property from Franklin Pierce Law. She is currently Director of International Legal Services for Matijevich Law Offices in Zagreb, Croatia and Director General of the VIPO. VB interviewed ‘Amat’ by email. “VB” is Virtually Blind, “JA” is ‘Juris Amat.’
VB: In very general terms, what is the Virtual Intellectual Property Association, and why did you start it?
JA: VIPO is a virtual intellectual property legal services organization. I started VIPO to support artistic and scientific creation in virtual worlds. During my initial visits to Second Life I noticed that despite the enormous amount of creation occurring, there was a lack of resources available to resident intellectual property owners. I was most surprised that there was no registry where they could record or deposit copies of their creations. My first intention with VIPO was to host a registry forum, as time went on however, it seemed more important to have an organization that provided access to professional guidance in the area of intellectual property.
VB: I understand that you, personally, are an attorney who specializes in intellectual property issues. Can you tell readers a bit about yourself?
JA: I’m a Massachusetts attorney living in southeast Europe, Croatia, where I work for a small law firm specialized in intellectual property management including administration, enforcement and transactions. My practice centers around international intellectual property transactions and related corporate services such as portfolio evaluation and management.
VB: Specifically, what are some of the services that VIPO will offer?
JA: VIPO offers consultations on outside world intellectual property protection as well as management of virtual property in world. We have assisted resident authors in structuring license agreements, drafting cease and desist notes, even protecting musical works and works of visual art while also providing information regarding related rights.
VB: Which one of VIPO’s services are you most excited about? Can you give readers more detail about your plans for that service?
JA: I’m most excited about our Customs Service. This is part of a new Virtual Property and Trade division that offers virtual trademark watch services and consultations on virtual property and trade to outside world corporations and legal entities. The reasoning being that while residents need assistance with how to navigate and maximize their virtual property rights in the outside world, corporations require navigational assistance in world and we think that we are uniquely qualified to provide realistic and effective advice.
VB: I’m particularly interested in your plans regarding dispute resolution and enforcement of intellectual property rights. What are you hoping to see in the long term there?
JA: I hope to see an effective court system put into place. I’ve only recently learned of the progress made by the Metaverse Republic in creating software that supports enforcement in the judicial system envisioned by the group. I’m particularly excited, however, to know that construction of a Supreme Court is underway. I’m certain, due to the level of expertise behind these ongoing efforts, that something useful for IP enforcement purposes will be created in the not so distant future.
VB: You also list help with registering products via the “SLPTO” (an in-world organization started by ‘Flipper Peregrine’ that offers some technical solutions that seem to mesh with with you are doing). What is your take on the SLPTO and how does it mesh with and differ from what you are doing with VIPO?
JA: Originally, I had mixed feelings about the SLPTO. On one hand I knew that some kind of registry system was necessary in Second Life. On the other hand I knew that whatever was established would not really serve the purpose that I, as an IP professional, expected it should. In other words, there could be no real administration of the rights accompanying the creations recorded because the recording body would have no authority to 1) grant and refuse protection to creations or 2) enforce such decisions.
Yet, I do advise residents to participate in the SLPTO registry system. The system can be used to add value to their creations and I haven’t been able to determine that it injures their rights in any way. I do however strongly encourage them to take advantage of our consultations in order to determine how their creations are or can be protected in the outside world.
VB: It appears on your site that you are planning to seek non-profit status for VIPO. Where are you drawing the line between your law practice and VIPO?
JA: Martin Luther King Jr., said ‘Everyone can be great because everyone can serve’. I believe that statement to be true and I feel that its my obligation to assist the world in whatever manner that I’m capable. In my opinion, my practice has given me skills that I can use to be of assistance to others and my being a director of the VIPO is a position that allows me to offer those skills to individuals not just legal entities.
VB: I ask all lawyers who are talking about meeting clients in a virtual world this: how are you addressing ethics issues such as unauthorized practice, conflicts of interest, and confidentiality of communication?
JA: Very carefully. :) I research and review decisions surrounding the practice of law on the internet, the confidentiality of communications via email and the internet, the practice of law under a tradename, the appointment of attorneys as members of boards of directors and related topics including conflicts of interest and then I act in compliance.
VB: Are you constructing an in-world presence for VIPO in any of the virtual worlds?
Last week, VIPO officially established a presence in Second Life. We are located on the third floor of the Justice Center. We are, however, investigating real estate possibilities in-world with the intention of initiating our own build later this year.
VB: Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about VIPO?
JA: I’m just extremely happy to be a part of this organization and I hope that residents will continue to take advantage of its services. Our slurl is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Malfelonius/209/69/61 and my avatar Juris Amat can be reached to arrange appointments for consultations via IM.
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