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BAYC founders acquire CryptoPunks NFT IP, relaxing commercial rights


Yuga Labs, the founding company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection, bought the intellectual property (IP) rights to the CryptoPunks and Meebits non-fungible token (NFT) collections from Larva Labs. Yuga Labs now also owns 423 CryptoPunks and 1711 Meebits. A key aspect of the deal is CryptoPunk NFT owners will now be able to exploit the IP rights to their characters commercially.

CryptoPunks was one of the first NFT projects to entice a digital community of loyal followers. In June of 2017 its founders launched 10,000 caricature-like digital figures, one of the first NFT collections ever, that were free on a first come, first serve basis. It took a while for the project to kick off, but several individual CryptoPunks have sold for millions of dollars since then. The cheapest ones sell for around $182,000.

Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks defined the profile pictures NFT playbook in many ways. It is no coincidence that many collections that followed, including the Bored Apes, had a total of 10,000 digital assets. Each collectible is identified by a number and features distinctive characteristics that vary in rarity. 

As such, the acquisition of this collection’s IP by the founders of BAYC, arguably the most famous and commercially successful NFT collection to date, might be a turning point for the digital collectibles industry. 

Commercial partnerships build value

The BAYC was somewhat revolutionary in how it managed its IP. Individual owners of Bored Apes partnered with brands to use their NFT almost like a celebrity in the metaverse. Music artist Timbaland launched a music label based on Bored Apes with some of the collectibles as artists. Universal Music started a music group in the metaverse with four Apes as group members. Blockchain gaming company Animoca announced a play-to-earn game with Yuga Labs and Adidas purchased and branded a Bored Ape. The idea is that the IP of each collectible is owned and managed by its owner (which sometimes is Yuga Labs), which increases the scope of opportunities for commercializing and popularizing collections. Through every individual partnership, the collection’s profile, utility, and value increases for every owner. 

As a result of the change in IP ownership, CryptoPunks and Meebits holders will be granted the same commercial rights as BAYC owners and will be able to commercialize their collectibles’ IP through a similar structure. Yuga Labs expects this development to increase the presence of the two collections on the metaverse and other Web 3 projects. Still, Yuga Labs acknowledges that Larva Labs’ projects are historical collections with established communities, therefore they want to stay away from the “club” model that was adopted by BAYC. 

The deal was facilitated by Guy Oseary, the founder of talent agency Maverick that manages U2, Madonna and Alicia Keys. Oseary is also an investor in Dapper Labs, OpenSea, SuperRare, in some cases via Sound Ventures, a joint venture with Ashton Kutcher. In addition to BAYC and now Cryptopunks and Meebits, Maverick also represents the NFT collection World of Women. In terms of all time sales, Cryptopunks and BAYC rank second and third and Meebits ranks ninth.

As for Larva Labs, the decision to sell the IP of its most iconic project was arguably in the interest of the community. According to the founders, Larva Labs excels in creating new and weird trends but not necessarily in keeping up with them. “Our personalities and skillsets aren’t well suited to community management, public relations, and the day-to-day management that these kinds of projects require and deserve,” they said. It seems that for now, Larva Labs is working on entirely new projects. 

It remains to be seen whether this deal represents the peak of the NFT bubble.

Image Copyright: CryptoPunks