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Late last month, Yuga Labs—the $4 billion company behind prominent NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club—attempted to silence a vocal critic by suing him in federal court.
Things aren’t getting any quieter.
The critic in question, internet provocateur and conceptual artist Ryder Ripps, has hired Louis Tompros of law firm Wilmer Hale to serve as lead trial counsel in Yuga Labs’ suit against the artist, Decrypt confirmed with the firm today.
Tompros is a seasoned IP litigator, known for representing Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie in multiple suits against far-right organizations accused of co-opting Pepe as a racist and white supremacist meme. Tompros appeared alongside Furie in the 2020 documentary “Feels Good Man,” which chronicles Furie’s attempts to rehabilitate Pepe’s image, particularly via a copyright suit against Infowars, the site of alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
That Furie and Ripps now share the same attorney is no accident. Tompros told Decrypt it’s his understanding that Ripps specifically approached Wilmer Hale with the desire to be represented by Tompros based on the lawyer’s experience, including his work successfully representing Furie against Infowars.
For months, Ripps has claimed that Bored Ape Yacht Club is secretly run by a conspiracy of Nazi trolls, who knowingly laced Bored Ape NFT images with racist and white supremacist symbols. BAYC’s owners, Yuga Labs, dismissed the whole thing as a “disinformation campaign” from a “demented troll.”
But when Ripps then sold a copycat collection of Bored Ape NFTs—a move seen by some as tongue-in-cheek political commentary, and by others as a naked cash grab—Yuga sued the artist for trademark infringement.
Despite the fact that Yuga’s suit does not touch the issue of defamation, legal experts believe its unspoken purpose is to put a stop to Ripps’ public, incessant trashing of their brand.
Though Tompros would not yet disclose the details of Ripps’ planned defense, he did allude to the fact that it will likely frame the case as an issue of artistic freedom. “The complaint appears to be an attempt to shut down Ryder’s artistic criticism of Bored Ape Yacht Club as racist and as problematic for a variety of other reasons,” Tompros told Decrypt. “Our plan is to respond, to explain why the lawsuit is baseless and why the use of trademark law in this type of context is inappropriate.”
Yuga has hired prominent Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West, the favored IP litigation firm of tech titans Facebook, Amazon, Apple, eBay, and Oracle, to represent the company in its suit against Ripps.
When asked whether Ripps would be inclined to settle, or take this case all the way to trial, Tompros responded, “We’re perfectly happy to let this go to trial and let the court resolve it. I’m involved for exactly that purpose.”