A United States district court judge has ruled against NFT artists Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen in a long-standing copyright lawsuit brought by Bored Ape Yacht Club creator Yuga Labs. The court has mandated the payment of $1.57 million in disgorgement and damages, along with legal fees.

Background and Legal Battle

Notably, the legal saga began with a partial summary judgment on April 21, favoring Yuga Labs. The judge found that Ripps and Cahen violated copyright laws. This was by creating copycat versions of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) collectibles.

District Court Judge John Walter has ordered the payment of $1.37 million in disgorgement of the defendants’ profits, further highlighting the NFT firm’s entitlement. An additional $200,000 in statutory damages was granted, specifically addressing cybersquatting violations.

Trademark Infringement

Notably, the judge deemed the trademark infringement an “exceptional case,” allowing Yuga Labs to recover attorney fees and costs from the NFT artists. The decision was based on the intentional and willful nature of the trademark violations.

Judge Walter also dismissed the defendants’ argument. He said that their copycat BAYC versions were “satire” and “parody”. Further, he ruled that the intentional infringement demonstrated a bad faith intent to profit from Yuga’s BAYC trademarks.

Highlighting the severity of the case, the judge noted that the defendants continued to market and promote their copycat BAYC versions even after the partial summary judgment was delivered in April.

Legal Maneuver: Free Speech Claim

In an attempt to salvage their case, Ripps and Cahen’s lawyers argued in an Oct. 16 hearing that the lawsuit should be dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, citing free speech. However, the three-judge panel in a United States appeals court did not appear convinced by the defense’s arguments.

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