Wait, so does this mean NFTs CAN be destroyed?

A photo of a Nike shoe for a Nike NFT
(Image credit: Nike)

Nike claims some online retailers are selling swoosh-branded trainers and sneakers without permission, and is asking them to be destroyed. The problem is, these are NFTs of trainers and sneakers, so how the heck does that work?

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that are registered on a blockchain; they can't be replaced by something else which creates a scarcity. We explain it all in our feature, What are NFTs?. Generally, an NFT is immutable, which means it will exist on the blockchain forever. Which raises a big problem for brands such as Nike that want to destroy fakes.

Just when we're getting our heads around the ever-changing world of NFTs a new issue arises, and it's actually fascinating. If Nike can legally take control of the alleged fake NFTs it could 'burn' them – send the asset to an inaccessible address, technically removing it from circulation.

Nike NFT as seen on the StockX website

StockX is selling NFTs of Nike shoes, which has led to a New York copyright court case (Image credit: StockX / Nike)

It's not the same as destroying fake Nike trainers in real life, and they will still exist. In this case it's Detroit-based StockX, a site that legitimately enables customers to buy and sell used Nike trainers. Now it's selling NFTs, what StockX calls Vault NFTs, of the same shoes (Nike Dunk, Jordan 1, etc).

In its defence StockX says the NFTs are receipts customers can cash-in to purchase their trainers. Nike doesn't hold the same view. As reported by Reuters in its complaint filed last month in a New York federal court, Nike accused StockX of exploiting its brand for NFTs.

The StockX NFTs are minted on the Ethereum blockchain, and they can't be deleted

Nike wants StockX to turn over all profits and the NFTs to be destroyed, which comes back to that tricky issue of how. The StockX NFTs are minted on the Ethereum blockchain, and they can't be deleted. But as mentioned, they can be sent to a burner wallet, which is the equivalent of Nike seizing stock and locking it away in a warehouse – in this case, the NFTs will still exist but will be unavailable to be traded.

This case is a conundrum, and more will likely come as top brands attempt to take control of NFTs and the metaverse. It remains to be seen how a decentralised space can be controlled using traditional courts and copyright law.

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Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & 3D

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.