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IP Goes POP! takes you out to the ball game (and the blockchain)
for this episode of the podcast that looks at the shift from
“collectible trading cards” to “collectable
NFTs”. Podcast co-hosts, Volpe Koenig Shareholders, and
intellectual property lawyers, Michael Snyder and Joseph Gushue
round the bases and pull out their most memorable sports cards as
they slide home to talk about the intellectual property (IP) of
baseball cards, collecting, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The days of digging through the attic in search of that hidden
box of your grandpa’s old sports cards may be dwindling, but
they are not gone. In some cases, these antique cards remain
valuable assets for their owners, who can be thought of as holders
of fine art. Some lock their cards away in vaults for safety or
display them on their walls, behind glass cases, taken out only
under the protection of silk gloves. But, how does the price of a
1959 Mickey Mantle or mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card
(approximately 60 in remaining in existence) compare to a
modern-day digital version of a trading card, such as the NBA Top
Shot NFTs, with clips anyone can view online? Is the future of
baseball cards still something you can touch with your hands or
will it reside digitally on your phone?  Our panel discusses
the basics of what an NFT is and how this blockchain technology is
shaping the future of the analog trading card business.

To understand where we are today–off the bases and on the
blockchain–Michael and Joe journey through the pop-culture of old
to consider the factors that led up to the popularity of baseball
cards. From the days of kids popping rock-hard rectangles of bubble
gum into their mouths while sorting through their just ripped
opened pack of baseball cards to the frenzied trading of duplicate
cards, one consistent element that has defined this market is
scarcity. The possibility of an elusive valuable find still
provides a rush for collectors and sports fans alike.

For example, a 1952 card Mickey Mantle card from Tops sold for
$5.2 million in 2021 because there were not that many printed
originally and it had a futuristic design. Other Mantle cards have
lesser value. A 1909 Honus Wager card is perhaps the rarest card to
find with approximately only 60 left in existence. It last sold for
$3.2 million. Rarity contributes to a baseball card’s
value.

Further, these cards remain protected under established
copyright and trademark law. These laws can limit what owners of
baseball cards are allowed to do with the card they physically own.
One important limitation relates to reproduction rights. Owning a
Mickey Mantle baseball card does not give you permission to
reproduce it, or sell copies. This is clear with a physical card,
but in the digital realm of NFTS, copy, paste, and social media,
how do you know you know your “digital card” is yours?
Why would you want to buy one if anyone can view it for free
online? How can digital assets that live in a world of seeming
abundance compete in value with the scarcity of cards you can
touch, trade by hand, and (if you’re unlucky) damage? As the
technologies used for collectibles shifts, so do the IP laws that
cover any new frontier.

Timestamps

2:12 Baseball Card Collecting

11:49 The Intellectual Property Rights of Baseball Cards

 16:13 Collectibles of the Future: Non-fungible Tokens
(NFTs)

20:00 Similarities and differences between tangible collectibles
and NFTs

  • Chain of title- Certificates of Authenticity
  • Controlling the supply of NFTs vs. Baseball cards

27:09 NFTs as the new collectibles

  • Does a static vs. dynamic image change the value?
  • Read your smart contract (similar to a license)!
  • Crypto Punks and Larva
    Labs
     sales

31:25 Final Thoughts

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
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