Thomas Lehman, who was named as a defendant by Yuga Labs in a suit related to the Ryder Ripps RR/BAYC case, has agreed to settle with Yuga Labs, according to court documents filed Monday.
Lehman, a web developer, coded the smart contract and built a website for artist Ryder Ripps for the RR/BAYC NFT collection, which used images from the Bored Ape Yacht Collection for its own NFTs. Yuga Labs, the parent company of BAYC, filed a complaint against Lehman on January 20, alleging “false designation of origin” and “cybersquatting.”
That complaint follows Yuga Labs’ other case, filed last June, in which the company accused Ripps and RR/BAYC cocreator Jeremy Cahen of false advertising, trademark infringement, and cybersquatting, among other charges for their collection.
Ripps has denied the claims, saying that he has been transparent that the collection is intended to draw attention to his belief that the BAYC NFTs are threaded with alt-right, neo-Nazi symbolism, and to challenge the belief that large PFP collections were protected by copyright. Further, Ripps and his lawyers have argued that RR/BAYC is a type of artistic expression in the form of appropriation art.
“Lehman ratified, implemented, and supported the use of Yuga Labs’ marks on this
smart contract and website to promote and sell the infringing NFTs as part of the RR/BAYC
business venture,” Yuga Lab’s complaint reads.
The use of marks referred to by Yuga includes the use of an illustrated Ape skull that acted as a browser tab icon. Yuga Labs listed infringement violations against Lehman not just for building Ripps’s website and smart contract, but for each time the marks showed up on NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea and Foundation, and also for promoting his work on the project on social media. In court filings, Yuga Labs asserted that Lehman was given 15 percent of the profits made from selling RR/BAYC NFTs. In a tweet last June, Ripps claimed the collection had generated more than $1 million.
Lehman has since denounced his involvement in the project.
“I am happy to have resolved the Yuga Labs, Inc. v. Lehman trademark lawsuit in the Northern District of New York. It was never my intention to harm Yuga Labs’s brand, and I reject all disparaging statements made about Yuga Labs and its founders and appreciate their many positive contributions to the NFT space,” Lehman said in a statement provided by Yuga Labs’s press representative.
According to the consent judgment filed Monday, Lehman promised to destroy any RR/BAYC NFTs he owns or hand them over to Yuga Labs to destroy and never to use BAYC marks again.
“Yuga Labs believes that creators, especially those in the nascent web3 space, must be able to rely on the law to protect their work against IP theft. We are pleased that Mr. Lehman acknowledged his role in assisting former cohorts, Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cahen, to infringe on Yuga Labs’ trademarks in developing, marketing, and selling counterfeit NFTs,” wrote a Yuga Labs representative.
“Yuga Labs looks forward to holding Mr. Ripps and Mr. Cahen responsible for their infringement backed by a campaign of vicious and baseless lies and appreciates Mr. Lehman’s rejection of their actions.”
In a statement to ARTnews on Twitter, Cahen said, “Tom is a great guy, he has been bullied into submission by a powerful multibillion dollar corporation who wants to threaten the livelihood of him and his family. Yuga Labs is abusing the court system, by pursuing defamation via frivolous trademark infringement litigation. The notion that Tom Lehman is not an ardent supporter of RR/BAYC and the individuals who are behind it is false. He was forced to burn his digital art pieces as part of his settlement terms. This is corporate fascism manifest.
“Yuga Labs may continue to threaten, attack and bully artists, engineers, developers, scholars and journalists but it will not stop the truth from being exposed,” Cahen continued.
Ryder Ripps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.