Creators of copycat Bored Ape NFTs ordered to pay damages and cease sales, setting a precedent for protecting intellectual property rights in the digital art space.
In a landmark ruling, a U.S. District Court judge has ordered Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen to pay nearly $1.6 million in damages to Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) collection. The decision comes as a result of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Yuga Labs against Ripps and Cahen for creating and selling "copycat" non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Yuga Labs, the company behind the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection, accused Ripps and Cahen of violating its intellectual property rights by creating and selling counterfeit Bored Ape NFTs. The defendants made profits from the sale of these counterfeit NFTs, which Yuga Labs argued devalued their collection.
The defendants defended their actions, claiming their use of Yuga Labs' trademarks was a form of satire and parody. However, the court rejected this defense.
Ryder Ripps is a 36-year-old conceptual artist and creative director known for collaborating with big names like Kanye West, Grimes, and brands such as Nike, Red Bull, and Gucci. When the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection became popular, Ripps initially overlooked it. However, after noticing similarities between the collection's logo and symbols used in Nazi Germany, he became concerned about the collection's potential hidden intentions. He believes that BAYC, with its various designs and symbols, contains racist imagery connected to the online alt-right. In May 2022, Ripps minted a set of NFTs mocking the Bored Ape NFTs. Yuga Labs subsequently sued Ripps for the collection.
The court ruled in favor of Yuga Labs, awarding them over $1.5 million in damages. This amount represents the profits the defendants made from the sale of their counterfeit NFTs. In addition, the court issued a permanent injunction against the defendants, ordering them to stop all sales and marketing of their counterfeit NFTs.
Furthermore, the court ordered the defendants to transfer their fake apes' smart contract and relinquish related online assets. The court also dismissed the defendants' counterclaim of false accusations and the use of racist and neo-Nazi imagery in Yuga Labs' NFTs.
The verdict is a significant victory for NFT creators, as it sets a precedent for protecting intellectual property rights in the digital art space. The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10,000 NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain, and holders are given unlimited copyright to use their apes in media or designs. This ruling reinforces the rights of NFT creators and owners, potentially deterring future attempts at creating and selling counterfeit NFTs.