McDonald's files trademark applications for metaverse restaurants

The filings reference things like virtual restaurants and NFTs. They could be part of a metaverse strategy or simply a precaution to protect the brand's intellectual property.
McDonald's exterior
Photograph: Shutterstock

Could McDonald's be planning to open restaurants in the metaverse?

The burger giant on Friday filed trademark applications for things like virtual restaurants and nonfungible tokens (NFTs) that appear to be related to the virtual-reality world known as the metaverse.

The 10 separate applications include the McDonald's, McCafe and golden arches word marks and cover services like "operating a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods" and "operating a virtual restaurant online featuring home delivery"—which is how restaurants might operate in the metaverse. 

Another filing references "Downloadable multimedia files containing artwork, text, audio and video files and non-fungible tokens." Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are one-of-a-kind digital assets that can be bought and sold online as collectibles.

The news was first reported on Twitter by trademark attorney Josh Gerben. He noted that it's common for companies to file new trademarks to protect their brands in the face of emerging technologies like the metaverse.

"These trademark filings are made to protect the idea of a McDonald's restaurant in the metaverse that can sell you 'virtual' food, or, real food (that would be delivered to you)," Gerben wrote.

McDonald's had not responded to a request for comment as of publication time.

Learn more about what the metaverse could mean for restaurants.

The trademarks are not the chain's first brush with the metaverse. Just last week, it launched an interactive exhibit on the virtual reality platform AltspaceVR to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

But that is different than opening a virtual McDonald's that sells food and/or virtual items.

That kind of operation is one potential application for restaurants in the metaverse, where users essentially carry on digital lives parallel to the real world. 

McDonald's is not the first restaurant chain to attempt to trademark its brand in this emerging alternate reality. One day earlier, Panera filed an application for the "Paneraverse," which would include virtual restaurants and cafes as well as NFTs. 

And on Wednesday, online ordering company Lunchbox sold just such a virtual restaurant, to the fast-casual chain Bareburger. The 35-unit chain will retrofit the virtual restaurant to its brand and begin accepting online orders in the metaverse, Lunchbox said.

The concept of the metaverse has been around for years. But it started to gain traction when Facebook changed its name to Meta in the fall and aired plans to develop its own metaverse software. Bloomberg reported that global metaverse revenue could reach $800 billion by 2025.

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