If the crypto space is free for anyone to enter and create, does it mean that intellectual property is irrelevant there?
Not really. Copyright litigations in the crypto space are multiplying, setting important precedents and further integrating crypto tools into the existing legal field.
👜 French luxury brand Hermès has recently won a lawsuit against digital artist Mason Rothschild, the creator of an NFT collection MetaBirkin, featuring the House’s iconic bag.
Mr Rothschild could not convince the jury that MetaBirkin NFTs were art and that he created it while exercising his right to free speech. He now owes Hermès $133k in damages (which however is but a small part of the $1.1 million he earned on the collection sales).
⚖️ Hermès proving in court that MetaBirkin NFTs infringed upon the House intellectual property and trademark rights was an important step towards the recognition of crypto tools as integral part of our legal landscape. It also reignited the debates about the compatibility of notions like decentralization and freedom of art with the IP protection mechanisms in place.
🦧 Another victory was achieved this week by Yuga Labs, creator of the famous Bored Apes Yacht Club. The company has reached a settlement with Thomas Lehman, the man who created 10’000 BAYC copycats for the Ryder Ripps’ project “RRBAYC RSVP”.
⚖️ Mr Lehman is now barred from using “any BAYC mark” and obliged to burn the RRBAYC he still owns. The court case against Ryder Ripps is still ongoing, and the artist is determined to prove that his project must be protected by the First Amendment as a work of satire. The court has already denied his motion, but Mr Ripps appealed it and filed counterclaims against Yuga Labs.
🤡 The funniest case of recent IP litigations involved Craig Wright, a man who is stubbornly claiming he is Satoshi Nakamoto, without being able to prove so. Mr Wright is known for his passion for lawsuits, some of which he has even won – to no significant consequence though. This time he was trying to prove that Bitcoin forks constitute a breach to his IP rights, but a UK Judge threw his claim away on Tuesday, arguing that “no relevant ‘work’ has been identified” showing Bitcoin’s origin.
Crypto space is maturing, and its biggest part – the one that strives for legal recognition – is being forced to comply with the existing IP protection rules.
This might be a good thing.