A long-running lawsuit between nonfungible token (NFT) artists Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen and Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) creator Yuga Labs has come to a close with a United States district court judge ordering the defendants to pay a total of $1.57 million in disgorgement and damages, as well as legal fees. The order, which was issued on October 25th, followed a partial summary judgement in favor of Yuga Labs in April, in which the defendants were found to have violated copyright laws by creating copycat versions of BAYC collectibles.
In his ruling, District court Judge John Walter awarded Yuga Labs $1.37 million in disgorgement of the defendants’ profits, and an additional $200,000 in statutory damages related to cybersquatting violations. Furthermore, Yuga Labs was also entitled to recover attorney fees and costs from the NFT artists, as the judge deemed the trademark infringement to be an “exceptional case.” According to the judge, a case is considered exceptional when a party has taken positions that are characterized as “malicious, fraudulent, deliberate, or willful.”
The defendants’ argument that their copycat BAYC versions were meant to be satire and parody was rejected by Judge Walter. He ruled that the defendants intentionally infringed Yuga’s BAYC trademarks with the intent to profit from them. The judge also highlighted that the defendants continued to market and promote their copycat versions even after the partial summary judgement was delivered against them in April.
Yuga Labs initially filed the lawsuit against the two artists in June 2022. In an October 16th hearing in a United States appeals court, Ripps and Cahen’s lawyers tried to have the lawsuit dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, claiming it was protected under free speech. However, the panel of three judges did not appear convinced by their arguments.
BAYC is recognized as one of the most valuable NFT collectibles on the OpenSea marketplace. Since April 2021, it has generated a trading volume of 1.32 million Ether (ETH) or $2.38 billion, with an average floor price of 27.4 ETH ($49,200), according to OpenSea data.
In conclusion, the legal battle between Yuga Labs and Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen has ended with a district court judge ordering the defendants to pay $1.57 million in disgorgement and damages, along with legal fees. The judge dismissed the defendants’ argument that their copycat versions were satire and parody, ruling that they intentionally infringed Yuga’s trademarks. BAYC remains a highly valuable NFT collectible on the OpenSea marketplace, with significant trading volume and a strong market presence.