NFTs, Christmas and Melania Trump

Written by Éamon Chawke | October 5, 2022

Intellectual Property

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital files (e.g. images, video etc.) registered on a blockchain. The system of creating, registering and selling NFTs is designed in such a way that: each NFT is individually coded/identifiable (which creates scarcity and value); each NFT is registered on a blockchain (which creates traceability, transparency and instills confidence in buyers and sellers of NFTs); and each NFT is separate from the physical or intellectual property to which it relates (e.g. an artist could sell a limited number of NFT replicas of an original artwork, granting/licensing the buyer certain rights in relation to the use of the NFT replicas, while retaining ultimate ownership of the physical and/or intellectual property in the original artwork itself).

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on 25 December as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. Christmas also has enormous commercial significance, with cards decorations, food, drink, songs, movies, presents, and much more (all specifically relating to Christmas) being manufactured, advertised, bought, sold and consumed around the world each year (also by billions of people!).

Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs or Melania Knauss) is a Slovene-American former model and businesswoman, who served as First Lady of the United States of America from 2017 to 2021. She is the wife of former US President Donald Trump.

A few years ago, Melania was reported to have said “who gives a f*ck about Christmas stuff and decorations?”. Twitter exploded, as is the way with these things. In Melania’s defence, it appears her remarks may have been taken out of context. However, she has recently spoken out and now wants us now to know that she is in fact “devoted” to Christmas.

Melania’s apparently new-found devotion to Christmas appears to have sprung from the fact that she recently launched her own Christmas ornament and NFT collection. According to Gizmodo.com:

“The “American Christmas Collection” is made up of six ugly brass ornaments that cost a whopping $35 each, all engraved with Trump’s signature. In addition, she’s also selling a brass ornament she personally designed called “The Christmas Star” for $45 on MelaniaTrump.com.”

“A purchase of the physical ornament is required in order to redeem the corresponding 3D animated NFT. According to Trump’s website and USA Memorabilia, the site selling them, the NFTs will be minted on the Solana blockchain and be available in limited quantities.”

“As for the design of the ornaments themselves, they sure are… something. Besides the Christmas Star, they resemble the generic designs you might see on gift tags.”

The moral of this Christmas tale of former First Ladies, funny looking festive paraphernalia and fungible digital assets is that intellectual property rights can arise in the most unexpected of places. Melania’s Christmas ornaments may attract protection under copyright and design right laws, and of course Melania’s own name and brand is itself a potentially valuable asset which may be protectable under trade mark laws and the laws of unfair competition and passing off. All of these intellectual property rights are potentially capable of generating revenue if the are packed up and commercialised correctly.

More importantly, as this saga illustrates, separate and distinct from the commercialization of the intellectual property rights, NFTs are separate assets with value of their own may be issued and registered in relation to the most mundane of items, thereby potentially creating added value due to the individualized/limited nature of NFTs. The idea is that the relative scarcity of these NFTs makes them collector’s items (e.g. as with limited edition replicas of works of art). Will the physical items and/or the NFTs in Melania’s “American Christmas Collection” be collector’s items in years to come? Only time will tell.

Briffa is a firm of specialist solicitors who deal in all aspects of contentious and non-contentious intellectual property and information technology law, including in particular trade marks, copyright, design rights. If you have a new business, product or idea, and you are thinking about how to protect, commercialise and enforce your rights, we are here to help. To book a free consultation, get in touch with us on info@briffa.com or 020 7288 6003.

Written by Éamon Chawke – Partner

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