bored apes

Legal Battle Over Racism and Trademark Infringement Rocks NFT Market: Yuga Labs and Artist Ripps Square Off in Court

Source: CNN

The “Tonight Show” episode with Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon discussing Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs marked the temporary alliance between celebrity marketing and the crypto industry, which aimed to take advantage of crypto’s high prices despite the industry’s issues with manipulation and fraud.

Molly White, a software engineer and fellow at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, stated that the episode was significant in bringing NFTs and crypto to a wider audience and presenting Bored Apes as a status symbol and exclusive club membership.

A class action lawsuit has been filed alleging that Hilton, Fallon, and other celebrities, along with crypto payments company MoonPay and Yuga Labs, were involved in a scheme to artificially inflate the price of Bored Ape NFTs for their own financial gain.

Apes on the rise

Yuga Labs created the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection of computer-generated cartoon apes in April 2021, with anonymous founders known only by their online screen names.

In fall 2021, Hollywood agent Guy Oseary invested in Yuga Labs and became part of its board, leading to several celebrities like Madonna, Steph Curry, DJ Khaled, and others promoting Bored Apes on social media and causing their prices to soar, with Justin Bieber buying one for $1.3 million.

Yuga received a $450 million venture capital investment and was valued at $4 billion by March 2022. However, a class action lawsuit filed in December 2021 alleges that Guy Oseary, on behalf of Yuga Labs, manufactured celebrity interest in Bored Apes to appear organic and paid celebrities through crypto payments company MoonPay.

Moonplay involvement

A class action lawsuit has been filed against celebrities and a crypto payments company, MoonPay, over their promotion of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection.

The lawsuit claims that Hollywood agent Guy Oseary, at the request of Yuga Labs, artificially created interest in the NFTs through paid promotions by celebrities such as Madonna, Lil Baby, Justin Bieber, and others.

Independent journalists noticed suspicious blockchain ledger records and uncovered that MoonPay had transferred Ethereum worth $760,000 into Post Malone’s wallet ahead of a music video where he bought a Bored Ape NFT, and two more payments worth $640,000 followed.

MoonPay claims that the celebrities used their “white-glove” service to purchase NFTs without having to set up a cryptocurrency wallet. MoonPay’s wallet has spent at least $25 million on NFTs with 60% going towards Bored Apes.

MoonPay and Yuga Labs have declined an interview and issued a statement referring to the claims as “opportunistic and parasitic.”

Accusations and anonymity

Max Gail, a blockchain developer and founder of Omakasea and Eth, has criticized the NFT market, saying it is like a parody of the fine art market and is distorted by strange crypto economics.

Some experts question the real value behind NFTs as there is a potential for money laundering and wash trading due to the anonymity of cryptocurrency wallets.

One NFT artist stated that the value of Bored Apes rose from $100 to $100,000 in just a year, which doesn’t make sense. Artist Trevor Ripps has sued Yuga Labs, the creators of Bored Ape NFTs, alleging that the NFTs infringe on the apes’ image rights and contain racist imagery.

Yuga Labs has denied the claims and sued Ripps for trademark infringement. Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon have been subpoenaed in the lawsuit, which has become a battle over freedom of speech and the rights of NFT creators. Some, including record executive Dame Dash, have criticized the Bored Ape NFTs as racist. Ryan Hickman, a software engineer, is being sued separately by Yuga for his involvement in a copycat NFT project.

Correction: The previous version of the story stated that Jimmy Fallon invested in MoonPay, but it has been updated to clarify that he is not an investor.