McDonald's and Panera Bread, two major US-based food chains, have filed trademark registrations to build virtual restaurants and sell other digital assets in the metaverse.
McDonald’s filed a total of ten trademark applications, one of which is for “operating a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods, operating a virtual restaurant online featuring home delivery.”
Panera Bread's trademark registration concerns non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to facilitate commercial transactions of virtual food and beverages, as well as computer programs to access such tokens in the metaverse. Under the brand name “Paneraverse,” the restaurant also intends to build out virtual restaurants and delivery features.
Many companies such as adidas Originals, Prada and Gap have expressed interest in selling their goods in the metaverse. But food companies have been slower to enter the space, mainly because it’s not yet clear how users can enjoy a virtual dining experience. McDonald’s did not respond to comment requests in time before publication, and Panera declined to accept interviews. However, Panera Bread's Chief Digital Officer George Hanson told The Block that, "Panera is always working to be at the forefront of tech advancement — as a brand we are consistently looking for new ways to better our guest experience, whether in our cafes or in the metaverse.”
As for why these restaurants must file trademarks for their own intellectual property use in the metaverse, Gerben told The Block:
"Any trademark registration is limited to the goods and/or services a company has applied for in the past. With the emergence of a new technology, it is common for companies to file new trademarks to ensure protection is clear as it relates to new goods and/or services they plan to offer. That said, from a practical perspective, McDonald's existing trademarks would prevent someone from opening a McDonald's in the metaverse. The new filings they are making are just a 'best practice' to ensure they have all the tools available to enforce their trademarks if it becomes necessary."