Fenwick Represents Yuga Labs in NFT Knockoff Trademark Lawsuit

Fenwick represented Yuga Labs, the creator of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection, in a trademark lawsuit claiming two individuals, Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen, created a fake NFT collection that points to images taken from Yuga Labs.

On March 17, U.S. District Judge John Walter of the Central District of California ruled in favor of Yuga Labs, striking all of the defendants’ state-law counterclaims under the California anti-SLAPP law. The court held that the defendants asserted their state-law counterclaims “based on Yuga filing this action, Yuga’s takedown notices, Yuga’s representatives giving a public interview on YouTube, and Yuga’s tweets about Counterclaimants,” and therefore those claims arose from protected activity. The claims were then stricken as lacking minimal merit on the pleadings. The court also dismissed the federal “no copyright” counterclaims for lack of standing. The court also ordered that the defendant cover Yuga Labs’ attorney fees.

The counterclaims stem from a significant court victory in December for Yuga Labs, when the court ruled in favor of an anti-SLAPP motion, defeating the defendants’ argument that their infringing NFTs were a First Amendment–protected form of artistic protest. The defendants responded by filing a number of counterclaims, including a declaratory judgment for “no defamation” as to defendants’ claims about Yuga Labs and its founders, declaratory judgments of “no copyright” in Yuga Labs’ art, and a claim for a bad-faith Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. Yuga Labs responded with an anti-SLAPP motion and a motion to dismiss the federal counterclaims.

The Fenwick team included litigation partners Eric Ball and Molly Melcher, litigation counsel Kimberly Culp, litigation associates Ethan Thomas, Tony Fares, Ryan Kwock and Katie Hauh.