Bored Ape owner Yuga Labs sues Ryder Ripps over re-minted NFTs
“This is no mere monkey business.”
Yuga Labs, in its lawsuit against Ryder Ripps
Yuga Labs, the company behind the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection, has filed a lawsuit against digital artist, Ryder Ripps, for selling unauthorized copies of Ape NFTs. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California late last week.
The suit targets a collection of NFTs Ripps had started that directly copied Apes and re-minted them as new NFTs. The “RR/BAYC” collection has already been removed from the OpenSea marketplace.
Thus far, Yuga Labs’ statement on the lawsuit amounts to a two-tweet thread. The company thanked its community for an “outpouring of support” and says it’s filed a lawsuit in order to “put a stop to the continuous infringement, and other illegal attempts to bring harm” to the company and the BAYC community.
To make matters significantly more complicated, Ripps has spent the last six months or so disseminating a theory that the Bored Ape Yacht Club covertly incorporates neo-Nazi imagery in its art. (A claim that the Anti-Defamation League did not buy into when interviewed by Input.)
The boundaries of copyright — At the center of this case is RR/BAYC, an NFT collection created by Ripps in May. Ripps began re-minting Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs and selling them as a separate entity.
“Through the process of ‘re-minting,’ the original BAYC images are recontextualized – illuminating truths about their origins and meanings as well as the nature of Web3 – the power of NFTs to change meaning, establish provenance and evade censorship,” Ripps writes on the RR/BAYC website.
Yuga Labs, by Ripps’s explanation, first issued a DCMA takedown request for one of these re-minted Apes on May 17. Ripps refused, and, he says, Yuga labs formally withdrew the DCMA request.
Yuga Labs’ lawsuit alleges that RR/BAYC constitutes trademark infringement as well as false advertising, cybersquatting, and unfair competition.
“This is no mere monkey business,” the lawsuit reads. “It is a deliberate effort to harm Yuga Labs at the expense of consumers by sowing confusion about whether these RR/BAYC NFTs are in some way sponsored, affiliated, or connected to Yuga Labs’ official Bored Ape Yacht Club.”
Ripps responds — Ripps tweeted a screenshot of a statement in response to the lawsuit on Monday. It reads:
“For the past seven months Yuga Labs has been actively trying to silence the research on gordongoner.com, as well as the thousands of people who take issue with several elements of their project, and this lawsuit is simply their latest attempt to do so. The lawsuit grossly mischaracterizes the RR/BAYC project — people who reserved an RR/BAYC NFT (Non Fungible Token) understood that their NFT was being minted as a protest against and parody of BAYC, and no one was under the impression that the RR/BAYC NFTs were substitutes for BAYC NFTs or would grant them access to Yuga’s club. They explicitly acknowledged a disclaimer when they purchased. I have been creating NFT artwork for the past year that scrutinizes the purpose, meaning, and social import of NFTs, as numeric entries on distributed ledgers, not as the public images they link to. I am a passionate supporter of the principals of free speech and the blockchain. I believe the greatest purpose of NFT is to establish provenance of digital content which previous to their advent was inherently difficult to trace the authorship and origins of.”
Addressing the Nazi thing — Though the word “Nazi” does not appear anywhere in Yuga Labs’ lawsuit, it very much contributes to the group’s notable escalation with Ripps. In late 2021, Ripps began amassing an archive of evidence about what he sees as the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s many neo-Nazi and racist references.
On the same day it filed this lawsuit, Yuga Labs also published a blog post from its founders explicitly addressing Ripps’s evidence for the first time. The post pulls no punches: “Overall, we think it’s crazy that these conspiracy theories have been able to proliferate,” it reads. “It really shows the power that a demented troll on the internet can have.”
With its suit, Yuga Labs seeks judgment ordering Ripps to never again use Bored Ape Yacht club branding on anything he produces, as well as compensation equal to Yuga Labs’ damages, Ripps’s profits, Yuga Labs’ attorneys’ fees, and other damages.
Updated 6.28.22, 12:30 p.m., to include Ripps’s statement made on Twitter.