Yuga Labs, the company behind the NFT (non fungible token) collection Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), has scored a legal victory against artists Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen. In an order issued 25 October in the District Court of Central California, judge John Walter awarded Yuga Labs $1.3m, concluding that the firm was entitled to a disgorgement of the defendant’s profits. Yuga Labs will also receive around $200,000 in statutory damages, fees and other costs, bringing Ripps and Cahen's total legal tab to nearly $1.6m, according to Coin Telegraph.
In court, Walter called the case “exceptional”, explaining that “a trademark case is generally considered exceptional for purposes of awarding of attorneys’ fees when a party has taken positions that can be characterised as ‘malicious, fraudulent, deliberate or willful’”, according to Courthouse News.
BAYC is one of the most valuable NFT collections on its host marketplace, OpenSea. It has amassed Ether (ETH) 1.32 million—or around $2.38bn—in trading volume since April 2021, although its floor price has decreased by more than 80% from its peak in 2022. The NFT market crash has tempered the collection's legacy, as has a star-studded class action lawsuit—alleging that BAYC was an unregistered security promoted through undisclosed celebrity endorsements—and a spate of layoffs.
Yuga Labs’ lawsuit against Ripps and Cahen was launched in June of 2022, accusing Ripps of selling NFTs that infringed on the company’s copyright. Although Ripps maintained that buyers were made aware that his NFTs weren’t native to the BAYC collection and were created for “satirical” purposes, Ripps was found to have executed a “calculated, intentional, and willful” plan to profit from and damage the reputation of the collection. After filing an unsuccessful anti-Slapp (strategic lawsuits against public participation) motion in August 2022, Ripps and Cahen were found to have committed “false designation of origin” in a summary judgement issued by judge Walter in April 2023.