- The US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Yuga Labs owns the BAYC trademarks
- The judge ruled that the defendants’ use of the BAYC marks was not protected by fair use or the Rogers Test
InYu a legal case brought against Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has granted a partial summary judgment in favor of Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection. Ripps and Cahen, who created the RR/BAYC NFT collection, were accused of infringing on Yuga Labs’ trademarks by using similar images and marketing materials in their collection.
Ripps and Cahen claim that the RR/BAYC project was intended as a satirical and critical response to the BAYC.Two of them have also alleged that BAYC NFT contains racist dog whistles, 4chan memes, and hidden Nazi imagery,
The court found that Yuga Labs owned the BAYC trademarks, which were valid and enforceable, and that the defendants had used them to sell RR/BAYC NFTs without Yuga Labs’ consent in a manner that was likely to cause confusion.
The judge ruled that the defendants’ use of the BAYC marks was not protected by fair use or the Rogers Test because Yuga’s marks were strong in the marketplace and the RR/BAYC project was intended to mislead. Additionally, the court determined that the domain names registered and utilized by the defendants, rrbayc.com and apemarket.com, had the potential to create confusion, and that the defendants were engaging in cybersquatting.
Yuga Labs had argued that it was entitled to $200,000 in statutory damages for cybersquatting, but the court dismissed this claim and stated that the determination of damages would be made during a pending trial. Ripps and Cahen also attempted to argue that NFTs were not protected under the Lanham Act, which governs trademarks and unfair competition.
However, the judge disagreed, stating that NFTs, as virtual goods, still qualified as goods under the Lanham Act due to their unique, traceable, and brand-associated characteristics.
The court’s ruling is a significant victory for Yuga Labs, which has been battling allegations of racism and other controversial issues related to the BAYC collection. The case also underscores the importance of trademark protection in the NFT space, where many creators are looking to cash in on the growing popularity of digital assets.