Yuga Labs v. Ryder Ripps: Bored Ape Yacht Club Case Will Test the Limits of NFT IP


In what could be the most important litigation in the NFT space, Yuga Labs sued Ryder Ripps for trademark infringement last Friday. There is a fast-emerging history concerning the dispute between Ryder Ripps and the founders of the Bored Ape NFT collection and the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

First, Some Background

Ther is a fast-evolving background that we will try to document in the future. For now, here are the essential things you need to know to understand what is happening.

  • There are lawyers who focus and specialize in NFT legal issues.
  • Ryder Ripps and a YouTuber named Philion released a controversial video titled BORED APE NAZI CLUB accusing the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht CLub and Yuga Labs of being white supremacists who launched the project as the great trolling stunt in the history of the internet. The rumors about this issue have been swirling for a long time. But this video lays out all the connections and coincidences which, cumulatively, suggest that there is fire where there is smoke.
  • Ryder Ripps clearly put in the work here. He states that the video was the result of hundreds of hours of research, investigative journalism, and insight from experts in the field of art and internet culture. Ryder reports that the investigation started 6 months ago when he was first made aware of one of the Bored Ape founders, https://gordongoner.com/ .
  • The controversy triggered the hashtag #BURNBAYC on YouTube and Twitter as Bored Ape owners, the NFT community, and those outside the community began questioning involvement in this highly successful NFT project. The story started to take hold and get traction. People who had purchased Bored Apes for hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) were asked to question their involvement. The value of the project and the apes hangs in the balance.
  • No one is suggesting that some or any of the Bored Ape purchasers bought their Bored Ape NFTs as part of the trolling, are racists, or did anything wrong. regardless, those NFT owners now own Apes that could be associated with hate.
  • Ryder Ripp is an artist who is known for publicity stunts and has had numerous allegations made against him concerning his motives.
  • Ryder Ripps copied the Bored Ape images and minted the images as NFTs on OpenSea.io. He stated that his intentions were commentary and parody. Ryder noted on Twitter “It will be a groundbreaking case in defining the nature of NFT, I seek to establish how you cant copy an NFT, every mint is a context shift, in my particular case this is an artistic statement on the nature of NFT, satire against Yuga Labs’ practice & protest against the content”
  • Yuga Labs arguably assigned the copyright to each Bored Ape image when they minted and sold the apes under the Bored Ape yacht CLub Terms for Service. So Yuga may not have the right to issue a DMCA take-down to Yuga Labs for copyright infringement.
  • Yuga Labs founders have issued a generalized denial of the allegations made by Ryder Ripps about any white supremacy, but have not tried to respond to each point identified by Ryder Ripps.
  • Yuga Labs filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last week arguing that Ryder’s use of BOred Ape and BAYC constitutes infringement. Of note is the fact that none of the issues raised by Yuga would make the threshold issue of white supremacy an issue for discovery in the case. Yuga did not sue for defamation or copyright infringement.
  • Yuga labs v. Ryder Ripps Complaint – Below is the complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California by Yuga Labs against Ryder Ripps.

The Federal Court Compaint Filed By Yuga Labs Against Ryder Ripps

ryder ripps bored ape yuga labs

Why Did BAYC Limit Its Legal Claims to Trademark Infringement?

This is ONLY a trademark lawsuit, which has raised numerous questions since the issue raised by Ryder Ripps and his parody NFT drop project is whether his analysis of the Yuga Labs founders is true; Are the BAYC Founders who created Bored Apes white supremacists as set forth in this youtube video dropped last week? This lawsuit may be leverage over Ryder Ripps, but will not involve the question of racism at the heart of this controversy.

Analysis of the Yuga Labs v Ryder Ripps lawsuit.

Here is a video I did talking about the importance of this lawsuit to the NFT community since it highlights the threshold issues of IP rights for NFT drops. NFT projects need to focus on the trademarks and copyrights prior to launch, making sure they identify and protect their valuable IP assets.

I will be updating this page regularly ..stay tuned…..

The Motion to Dismiss / AntiSLAPP Motion was filed by Ryder’s Attorneys.

See the documents here.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Enrico Schaefer, who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a practicing Business, IP, and Technology Law litigation attorney.