Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) From Intellectual Property Law Perspective And Türkiye’s Position – Trademark



On 20 September 2017, the term “NFT” (non-fungible
token) was officially coined by Dapper Labs Chief Technology
Officer Dete Shirley in the form of the ERC-721 standard.

NFTs boomed in 2021 and have remained relevant since. Despite
the drops observed in their market volume in 2023, NFTs are still
in the spotlight as numerous global brands are continuing to launch
NFT collections and many trademark applications with coverage
including NFTs are being filed all around the globe.

What is an NFT?

An NFT is a digital asset that uses blockchain technology and
mostly operates within Ethereum. An NFT is a digital token that
cannot be exchanged or replaced and may represent many tangible
objects in the real world such as:

  • songs;
  • artworks;
  • GIFs;
  • virtual game items;
  • videos; and

An NFT is technically not the asset itself. Instead, it is a
metadata file that contains the unique combination of a token ID
and contract address. Therefore, NFT sales do not include the
transfer of copyright on the work converted into an NFT. It only
provides the right to use the relevant NFT format, unless the
parties agreed otherwise, for assignment of the rights by meeting
formal conditions.

NFTs are highly preferred, especially in the art community,
because they function as a digital certificate or registry through
blockchain technology, thus providing transaction security. They
also allow transactions to be carried out quickly and without any
central authority in the digital environment. On the other hand,
purchasers of NFTs mostly want to have a unique digital asset for
collecting purposes or use it as an investment tool.

NFTs are also very popular in trademark field. They allow brand
owners to sell their virtual products bearing their trademark as an
NFT and operate in the digital market and virtual universes
(metaverse). Moreover, they are also regarded as a powerful tool to
combat counterfeiting by authenticating physical products and
ensuring transaction security due to the blockchain technology
employed. Trademark owners are willing to obtain trademark
registrations covering NFTs.

What is the courts’ approach?

In an environment lacking specific legislations on this area,
court decisions have shed light on legal questions about NFTs over
the recent years and it appears that many of them are yet to

Some cases of international relevance have tackled the question
of who owns the right to convert a work into NFT format and in some
it was assessed that “parties shall not be entitled to sell
anything (including the NFT format of the works) that they do not

What is Turkey’s position?

In Turkey, “NFTs” are defined as “qualified
intellectual property deeds” by the Digital Transformation
Office of the Presidency and are not regulated with specific
legislation, as is the case in the rest of the world.

However, the Turkish courts and Patent and Trademark Office (the
TPTO) have started to deal with them.


In fact not too long ago, a Turkish court rendered a preliminary injunction (PI) decision
concerning NFTs.


The subject of the dispute pertains to exploitation of the
portrait of the late Cem Karaca, who is an artist, songwriter and
composer with a legendary reputation in Anatolian Rock music. In
the case brought by Cem Karaca’s heir, in requesting
preliminary injunction, claimed that the portrait of Cem Karaca was
unlawfully used both physically and in NFT form and communicated to
public, exhibited online on various social media accounts and
listed and offered for sale on globally-known marketplace OpeanSea
which led to infringement of Article 86* of Law on Intellectual and
Artistic Works numbered 5846 (“LIAW”) that grants legal
protection to pictures and portraits and Article 24** of Turkish
Civil Code (“TCC”) numbered 4721 that regulates personal

The Plaintiffs requested from the Court, inter alia, to make
a determination of evidence in order to detect the alleged
unauthorized use of depicting Cem Karaca’s look, then block
access to the respective contents and declare a PI to cease sale of
the relevant portrait in NFT format on


As intellectual property proceedings in Turkey rely heavily
on the report of an expert(s) appointed by the court to provide an
assessment on relevant aspects of the dispute. Here, the Court
appointed an expert report regarding the use of the portrait and
communicating to public which assessed that portraying and ordering
for sale as NFT of Cem Karaca’s look for commercial purposes
constitute infringement within the scope of Article 86 of LAIW and
Article 24 of TCC.

Having regard to the expert opinion, the court accepted the
request for PI, ordered that the access to those platforms where
such portrait is exploited in an unauthorized manner be blocked,
and the sale of “Cem Karaca” portrait in NFT format on
the platform of Opensea be precluded. Access to the relevant
infringing websites in Turkey has been blocked through the Access
Providers Union in order to secure the execution of the above court
order. The defendant’s objection to this PI decision was
rejected. The trial phase on the merits of the dispute is still
pending before the respective Court.

This decision has a significant importance due to being the
first ever court decision rendered related to NFTs in Turkey and
recognizing that NFTs could be subject to a PI. While the court did
not elaborate on the legal aspects of NFTs, the decision is still
noteworthy as NFTs were considered a valid “format” by
the court for the purposes of infringement cases and can be subject
to a PI.

Patent and Trademark Office

Many trademark applications covering NFTs are filed in Turkey as
well. The TPTO handles these applications like any other trademark
application with no reservation. Moreover, in a very recent
decision, the TPTO determined that virtual and online goods or
services were similar to physical goods or services and rejected
the contested trademark application as per the existing provisions
of IP code.

These assessments are consistent with the approach of the courts
and IP offices in other countries.


Despite the fact that any legislation specific to NFTs has yet
to be established both in Turkey and in the rest of the world,
developments are important as they acknowledge the protection in
the NFT space by means of general principles and assess virtual and
physical goods or services as similar or related. It is expected
that principles that have begun to be established by trademark
offices and courts will become more settled within the next few


1. For more information please see:

*Article 86 of LIAW numbered 5846 states that
“Even if they do not qualify as works, pictures and portraits
may not be exhibited or disclosed to the public in any other way
without the consent of the person depicted in such picture or
portrait or, in case of his death, without the consent of the
persons referred to in the first paragraph of Article 19, unless 10
years have elapsed after the death of the person depicted. The
provisions of Article 24 of Turkish Civil Code shall be reserved in
cases where publication is permitted under the provisions of the
first 46 and second paragraphs”.

**Article 24 of TCC numbered 4721 with title of
Protection of Personality and with subtitle of protection against
infringements states that “Any person whose personality rights
are unlawfully infringed may petition the court for protection
against all those causing the infringement. An infringement is
unlawful unless it is justified by the consent of the person whose
rights are infringed or by an overriding private or public interest
or by law.”

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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