You know the Bored Ape Yacht Club, the popular NFT collection that has enticed the likes of Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Jimmy Fallon? Well, the company behind the collection, Yuga Labs, is suing an artist they believe is trying to devalue the Bored Ape Yacht Club. The first rule of Bored Ape Yacht Club: Do not devalue Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Yuga Labs filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in California last week against Ryder Ripps, a Los Angeles-based conceptual artist. Yuga claims that Ripps has been misusing its trademarks for his own benefit and the detriment of the company’s digital art. The lawsuit reads: “This is no mere monkey business.”
Bored Ape Yacht Club took the NFT market by storm when it dropped, with athletes, celebrities, influencers, and the everyday cryptobro cashing in on the hype (too soon?). The thousands of combinations of fur color, backgrounds, and clothing options has helped “NFT” become a household phrase, but the journey to the top has to come with some speed bumps.
“In response to the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s popularity, Defendant Ryder Ripps, a self-proclaimed ‘conceptual artist,’ recently began trolling Yuga Labs and scamming consumers into purchasing RR/BAYC NFTs by misusing Yuga Labs’ trademarks. He seeks to devalue the Bored Ape NFTs by flooding the NFT market with his own copycat NFT collection using the original Bored Ape Yacht Club images and calling his NFTs “RR/BAYC” NFTs,” the lawsuit reads.
Ripps’ apes do share an aesthetic with the Bored Ape Yacht Club, but Ripps claims he operates under the auspices of fair use and satire as opposed to blatant ripoff. “RR/BAYC uses satire and appropriation to protest and educate people regarding The Bored Ape Yacht Club and the framework of NFTs,” he explains on the RR/BAYC website, and says that, through his own research, he has discovered connections between the BAYC and “subversive internet nazi culture.”
Ripps has documented his findings on gordongoner.com, claiming that several of the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s anthropomorphized monkeys carry racist connotations against Black and Asian people. Ripps also alleges that the Bored Ape Yacht Club logo resembles a Nazi emblem and that the parent company’s name references an alt-right movement called Kali Yuga. Ripps claims that Yuga Labs has been trying to keep his findings quiet for months.
“The self-proclaimed authors behind Bored Ape Yacht Club are intentionally embedding edgy/subversive elements with nazi and racist themes,” he said in a statement. When asked for comment, Yuga Labs directed us to tweets from the company and co-founder Gordon Goner, as well as a joint blog post from the co-founders that directly addresses Ripps’ accusations.
The suit is just the most recent in a long line of hiccups surrounding the Bored Ape Yacht Club recently, which include millions of dollars being stolen from BAYC’s Instagram followers following a hack this past April.
Update June 29, 11:55 a.m.: This article was updated with additional response from Yuga Labs.