The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has sided with Yuga Labs, the creator of Bored Ape Yacht Collection (BAYC), in their case against Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen.
Yuga Labs wins case against Ryder Ripps
In a partial summary judgment, ten months after Yuga Labs sued Ryder Ripps for his RC BAYC collection, Judge John Walter agreed with assertions that Ryder Ripps’ non-fungible token (NFT) collection confused consumers, unfairly reaped millions in profits from the BAYC brand, and caused reputational damage.
It is despite the defendants arguing that NFTs are digital goods that the Lanham Act of the United States laws does not protect. Under this act, brands are protected against trademark infringements, false advertising, and more. The judge said NFTs are virtual goods as they are unique and traceable, qualifying for protection under the Lanham Act.
Yuga Labs wants to be compensated with $200,000 in statutory damages from Ryder Ripps, whom the judge said engaged in “cybersquatting”. The defendants created two websites that confused potential BAYC buyers, some of whom might have purchased Yuga Labs’ collections.
The court also said Yuga Labs owns the trademarks behind the BAYC NFT collection. Out of this ruling, the court agrees with the plaintiff that Ripps illegally used the BAYC trademark without permission and was driven by malicious intent to profit unfairly.
At the same time, Ripps’ decision to use BAYC’s trademark wasn’t in “fair use” because of the strong presence of Yuga Labs’ brand in the market. The judge said Ripps’ release of the RC BAYC collection instead “created confusion” amongst consumers.
Ripps accuses Yuga Labs of racism
Ripps, who is a conceptual artist who has worked with top brands and celebrities like Kanye West and Nike, claims that BAYC’s NFTs were deliberately embedded with Nazi and racist imagery, a claim Yuga Labs deny.
For his position, Ripps created a copycat of the BAYC collection intending to be satirical since the artist maintains that Yuga Labs wants to slip toxic imagery and ideas into the larger art culture.
Yuga Labs has continued to deny allegations of racism, previously terming Ripps’ collection a “campaign of harassment” and slander.