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Yuga Labs, the $4 billion company behind dominant NFT brand Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), notched a small but potentially meaningful victory in its ongoing legal battle against the conceptual artist and internet provocateur Ryder Ripps. The firm reached a settlement Monday in federal court with one of Ripps’ collaborators on the artist’s controversial RR/BAYC project.
Thomas Lehman, a developer who assisted Ripps in creating the smart contract for that collection, has settled with Yuga after the company sued him for trademark infringement late last month.
In early 2022, Ripps began circulating allegations that Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs contained hidden pro-Nazi and racist imagery. Then in May—in what he claimed to be a political and artistic statement—he sold a copycat collection of 10,000 Bored Ape NFTs. Ripps said the collection highlighted Yuga’s Nazi ties as well as legal questions related to the reproducibility of NFTs.
Yuga called the project trademark infringement and sued the artist in a Southern California federal court last June.
That case is still ongoing, and Ripps and his counsel have vigorously maintained his desire to take the case as far as possible to establish RR/BAYC’s legitimacy and continue to spread its provocative message.
In late January, though, Yuga supplemented its lawsuit against Ripps with separate suits against two of RR/BAYC’s other participants—one against Lehman, in the Northern District of New York, and one against developer Ryan Hickman, in Nevada federal court.
Lehman took home 15% of the profits made from the RR/BAYC collection, which did some $1.6 million in sales, according to sources familiar with the matter. Although the terms of Lehman’s settlement with Yuga are confidential, a federal court filing Monday detailed that Lehman has conceded both Yuga’s ownership of the BAYC trademark and that he infringed on those marks as a part of his participation in the RR/BAYC project.
“It was never my intention to harm Yuga Labs’ brand, and I reject all disparaging statements made about Yuga Labs and its founders,” Lehman said in a statement shared with Decrypt.
Ripps, meanwhile, told Decrypt he had not been aware Lehman was considering settling with Yuga, calling Monday’s development “news to me.”
Though certainly a victory for Yuga, Lehman’s settlement has not yet made any immediate impact on Ripps’ suit: the two entirely separate cases were filed in two different federal jurisdictions. Further, Lehman’s chiefly technical work on RR/BAYC appears to have been peripheral to the project’s creative and allegedly political mission.