The Lanham Act sets forth which trademarks may be registered at the Patent and Trademark Office. It contains a number of limitations on registrability. Section 2(a) prohibits among other things the registration of a mark that “[c]onsists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” This provision originally came into force in 1946 with the enactment of the Lanham Act, but the prohibitions it sets forth have been in effect since the late nineteenth century, when the federal government first began to register trademarks.

Two recent decisions from the Federal Circuit in the long-running litigation between Oracle and Google have upended the scope of copyright protection afforded to software. In both decisions, the court weighed in heavily on the side of strong copyright protection, even protecting the relatively functional code comprising application programming interfaces (APIs).

Artificial intelligence (AI) has often been viewed as either an ally or an adversary—a powerful analytical system to be harnessed or a source of risk to be managed. In copyright law, AI has been treated much the same way, with academic debates focused primarily on whether AI-generated works should be owned by the AI itself, the human programmer who created the AI, or the end user. However, little attention has been paid to how the use of AI in the creative process can affect the validity of ownership claims asserted by any of these human actors in computer-generated works—a question that may have a far greater impact on creative industries.

The recent rise of virtual reality, augmented reality, and other related technologies has created vast amounts of virtual space. Within this space, novel forms of trademark infringement and expressive use may arise. This note categorizes the above-mentioned technologies under the umbrella term of “ virtual realism” and examines trademark infringement in relation to such virtual realism technologies.