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Bored Ape Yacht Club says that it doesn’t own formal copyright for its NFT collection

A court filing from the brand behind the popular NFT asserted that it possesses no legal copyright to the Apes.


Jacob Seitz


Posted on Jan 17, 2023

Yuga Labs admitted it does not own any formal copyright for the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, according to a court filing.

The revelation was disclosed in a court filing by Yuga Labs in the company’s lawsuit against Ryder Ripps, the internet provocateur who created NFTs in the style of Bored Apes. In an interview last year, Ripps said the NFTs were meant to parody Bored Ape NFTs and “hold a mirror to the images in the Bored Ape Yacht Club as a new mint to raise awareness about Yuga’s racism/antisemitism.”

Yuga sued Ripps for trademark infringement last year, alleging that Ripps stole trademarked property to create his NFT series. Now, in court filings, Yuga is saying that while it possesses no formal copyright for the Bored Ape series, it still possesses a trademark over them.

“As this Court recognized, this is a trademark case that will determine whether Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen infringed Yuga Labs’ trademarks for their own financial gain,” the filing said.

However, Yuga claims that it does possess copyright over the Bored Ape collection, citing a case that determined that copyright exists as soon as copyrightable material is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Yuga said that it does not possess a legal copyright, which would allow the company to sue for copyright infringement. 

“Registration of a copyright is not required to own one; it is required to file suit on one,” the filing said. “The Court should not wade into whether Yuga Labs has a copyright in its Bored Ape images because such an opinion would be merely advisory; Yuga Labs does not have a registered copyright, and there is therefore no imminent threat of a lawsuit for copyright infringement.”

The filing is in response to counterclaims made by Ripps and his co-defendant, Jeremy Cahen, last month alleging that Yuga sued Ripps over trademark infringement while “Yuga knew that it was impossible to copy an NFT,” and accusing them of suing without proper copyright.

Earlier this month, Yuga Labs founders attempted to dodge deposition in the case by filing a claim that its cofounders were exempt from deposition, but a judge denied their claim. Despite the denial of their exemption, Yuga Labs founders didn’t show up to their scheduled deposition last week. It’s unclear when the depositions will be rescheduled, or what recourse the founders might face for missing their scheduled hearing.

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*First Published: Jan 17, 2023, 2:15 pm CST