Bored Ape NFT ruling ignites dispute in MetaBirkins trademark case

Bored Ape NFT ruling ignites dispute in MetaBirkins trademark case

MetaBirkins artist and Hermès clash over a recent ruling related to Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, as both parties try to interpret its implications for their ongoing trademark dispute.

Differing interpretations of Bored Ape ruling

A recent ruling in a trademark dispute involving Bored Ape Yacht Club non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has ignited a clash between MetaBirkins digital artist and luxury brand Hermès International SA. The disagreement arises from differing interpretations of the ruling and its implications for their ongoing trademark case, which began about three months ago when a New York federal jury found Mason Rothschild guilty of infringing Hermès’ marks.

In a letter to Southern District of New York Judge Jed S. Rakoff, Rothschild’s attorney argued that a California federal court’s ruling last month in Yuga Labs Inc. v. Ripps was incorrect. Rothschild claimed that his MetaBirkin NFTs, which feature faux fur-covered Birkin handbags, are intangible works of art not subject to the Lanham Act, the federal trademark law. 

In response, Hermès countered that Rothschild was merely repeating previously rejected arguments about the scope of trademark law.

The impact of the California ruling

The California ruling, delivered by Judge John F. Walter, determined that conceptual artist Ryder Ripps had sold copycat Bored Ape NFTs in violation of trademark law. Walter argued that “although NFTs are virtual goods, they are, in fact, goods for the purpose of the Lanham Act.” 

Rothschild, however, cited a 2003 US Supreme Court ruling in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., claiming the Lanham Act applies only to confusion about the origin of tangible goods, excluding art.

Potential consequences for the NFT world

The outcome of this ongoing dispute between MetaBirkins artist and Hermès could have significant implications for the NFT world, particularly in terms of trademark law and the classification of NFTs as tangible or intangible goods. As the popularity of NFTs continues to grow, clear legal guidelines will be necessary to avoid confusion and protect the rights of artists, brands, and collectors alike.

As the NFT market grapples with complex legal issues, it seems that finding the right balance between creative freedom and trademark protection may be as elusive as the intangible nature of the assets themselves.

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