Yuga Labs Inc., creator of the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club nonfungible tokens, claimed that conceptual artist Ryder Ripps scammed consumers into purchasing fake Bored Ape NFTs in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Ripps has made more than $5 million in a pump-and-dump scheme involving the counterfeit NFTs, called RR/BAYC, which have been sold to more than 1,000 consumers, according to the June 24 complaint.
“Brazenly, he promotes and sells these RR/BAYC NFTs using the very same trademarks that Yuga Labs uses to promote and sell authentic Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs,” said the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California.
Yuga Labs said it has applied to register a variety of trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office, including the Bored Ape name and its logo depicting a monkey skull.
The complaint said Ripps is also now promoting an “Ape Market” NFT marketplace which requires members to purchase the counterfeit NFTs for access. He sold the counterfeits on the OpenSea NFT marketplace where authentic Bored Ape NFTs are also sold, the complaint said, but the fakes have since been removed.
Ripps also sold the NFTs on another marketplace called Foundation and heavily promoted the counterfeits on social media using Yuga Labs’ trademarks, which has caused consumers to falsely believe Ripps and Yuga Labs are connected, the complaint said.
Bored Ape NFTs, which depict digital profile images of apes, have become immensely popular in the NFT art market, totaling more than $2.2. billion in sales since they released in April 2021, according to the blockchain data tracker Crytoslam.
Owning a Bored Ape NFT comes with certain privileges, including a license to use the artwork behind the NFT and access to an exclusive virtual clubhouse.
The complaint said Ripps’ counterfeit NFTs, which he claims are satire, are part of a “longstanding harassment campaign” against Yuga Labs and its founders. He has allegedly leveled “baselsess accusations of racism” against them on Twitter and Instagram.
Ripps has been part of other controversial art projects, including “Ho” and “Barbara Lee,” and has collaborated with Kanye West.
Causes of Action: False designation of origin, false advertising, cybersquatting, common law trademark and unfair competition, unjust enrichment, conversion, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage.
Relief: Preliminary and permanent injunction, damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Response: Ripps didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorneys: Fenwick &West LLP represents Yuga Labs.
The case is Yuga Labs Inc. v. Ripps, C.D. Cal., No. 2:22-cv-04355, complaint filed 6/24/22.
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