MLB Topps + AtomicHub + small artist = HUGE Legal Battle!

MLB Topps + AtomicHub + small artist = HUGE Legal Battle!

By TrocProcLock | Random Tech News | 8 May 2021


Fair warning: This is going to be a long post.

There is so much to dive into and I want to document it all correctly and honestly while also giving you all my personal opinion on it. By this point we are all familiar with NFT's. We should all be familiar with AtomicHub, the WAX NFT exchange to rule them all. I have even dabbled in creating NFT's myself and have written many articles on how to create your own. I am a firm believer in "everyday people" making NFT's and furthering the NFT space. 

But this article isn't about my NFT collection or a super popular collection. It is about one particular NFT collection that does have a small following and for all intents and purposes was a legit NFT collection. The collection is called "NFT Drop Shots". If you search on AtomicHub you will not find it. But why TrocProcLock? Why are you writing about a NFT collection that we can't have. Well that my friends is where the story gets interesting.


What is NFT Drop Shots?

Why is it Gone?

Details about the NFT's in question.

What did NFT Drop Shots Do about it?

What can we do about it?

Lessons Learned?


What is NFT Drop Shots?

NFT Drop Shots is/was a collection of NFT's created by Krizpy99 / @dropMYmoments. It is a collection that like everything else in this world pulls inspiration from other things. It is a basketball trading card game NFT collection. You buy "booster packs" of cards. Then you open the packs and get certain amount of cards and possibly bubble gum nfts as well. The art work is home grown and really well executed to be fair.

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Coming from someone who created a NFT collection that was "molded" after a different trading card game, the NFT Drop Shot collection is a really well thought out Trading Card game with various mechanics.

If you were to look on Atomic Hub you would not find anything though. I had to get those images off of their Twitter account. If you were however able to get a link to a previous drop you would get something like this:

6fe60f50ba5570194853fb1c54e8cf91dceb76f225720b1917bc7fe8dd9f964b.png

And the reason for that is because AtomicHub blacklisted the NFT Drop Shot collection. I would assume that before they got blacklisted they were fully whitelisted because well they seem to have had all their ducks in a row.


Why is it Gone?

Guys this is where the story gets good. So the guys over at NFT Drop Shots were minding their own business and creating a fully fleshed out NFT collection that brings in inspiration from the MLB Topps collection of Trading Cards and NFT Trading Cards. They were not directly copying Topps but merely using Topps as a jumping off point while paying homage to the trail blazer that was Topps. Even that is a stretch. Topps isn't the only Basketball or Baseball Trading Card company out there. It really is just 1 particular NFT that started this hot mess.

It turns out that someone over at Topps got wind of NFT Drop Shots and their collection and had an issue. Now before we go any further I want to produce the evidence with as little as bias as possible. (obviously you have read up to this point so you know my bias already).

Here is the NFT that the Topps team took issue with.

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Which if I am correct was just a promotional NFT given away to drum up the audience and get more attention. The Topps team believed it was trademark infringement based on their logo (see below).

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Both of these images I screenshotted from documents that the Topps team sent over in their complaint. As you can see there are similarities to both of them. The 'D' and the 'R' in the 1st image are made to represent the 'T' and wrap around the 'opps' in both images. I don't think anyone will disagree that the "dropps" image was created to copy/parody the trademarked "topps" logo.

The Topps team got their legal department involved and sent over a 'unauthorized use of Topps Intellectual Property' e-mail to the NFT Drop Shots team, in which they stated the following:

Topps recently learned that NFT Drop Shots ("Drop Shots") is selling NFT-based digital trading cards that use the word "dropps" in a stylized font nearly identical to Topps registered TOPPS Logo Mark ("Infringing Cards") on the NFT auction site AtomicHub.io ("AtomicHub").

Okay so that statement isn't wrong. We can agree to that right?

Then this is the kicker that they sent over in the same e-mail:

Drops Shots' Infringing Cards are likely to lead to consumers to believe that Topps has authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved of the cards, which is false. In fact the NFT Drop Shots Discord server contains conversations between users discussing intentionally copying Topps intellectual property in order to confuse buyers and/or hold NFTs for ransom (see Exhibits.....). Ransom?! Besides the unauthorize use of Topps intellectual property in violation of US and UK trademark law, you now have crossed over to criminal activity.

In the email they state that they want all current and future sales, advertisings and distribution of the infringing NFT's stopped and also any other products derived from Topps Intellectual property. They also request that AtomicHub disabled the listings immediately. They request a response no later than Thursday May 13th.

Attached to the letter they included their Trademark filling for their logo and various other legal documents that would scare anyone because of how "official" it appeared and sounded. Which is usually the tatic big companies use to scare little guys. Send over all this legal mumbo jumbo and throw around words like criminal activity to scare them into just submitting to their requests and not fighting it.

I am assuming at this point this letter was also sent to AtomicHub as well.

It was at this point that the NFT Drop Shots was blacklisted on AtomicHub.


Details about the NFT's in question.

We need to clear the air a little to fully understand the breadth of this legal disagreement. Is the 1 NFT similar to the Topps Logo? Yes. Is the Drop Shot NFT different enough to be fair use and not infringing on their Trademark? That is the question at play. The Drop Shot team state it was made in parody and anyone would be able to see that clear as day.

The Topps team sent over screenshots of chats in Discord. Take this one for example:

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User 1: Are topps going for a lot?

Drop Shot: dude, shoulda bought just for the resale

they go for so much, you could probably have bought a pack and threatened to burn it if your ransom wasn't met

User 2: Lmao

User 1: Should I try and trade your card for a topps card lol :) **<-- that was a laughing emoji**

So that is the "ransom" that Topps was referring to in their legal threatening e-mail they sent?? Are you kidding me Topps? Anyone who reads that thinks it's hilarious. 

I am not a legal expert but I am also not an idiot. Here are the 2 NFT descriptions side by side
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IF NFT Drop Shots named their collection something like "mlb.dropps" then okay fine yeah they are trying to impersonate them. But CLEARLY they are making it a point that it is a fan made collection. And AtomicHub even have warnings all over when you purchase a NFT stating how to be careful to make sure this is the NFT collection you think it is because anyone can make a NFT.


What did NFT Drop Shots Do about it?

NFT Drop Shots sent an e-mail back to the legal team. Explaining that their work was done in parody (see very bottom of this article for the hypocracy) and does not infringe on their trademark and that nobody would assume that NFT Drop Shot was created and minted by Topps. Which I tend to agree. I mean that is like The Pokémon Company coming to me and saying I am infringing on their TCG. Which would be a total stretch!!!

They also explained to the Topps team that they are going to make a NFT based on their legal threat e-mail and that they can arrange to give Topps the Mint #1 :) Which 3 stars for creativity and sass to the weak legal threats.

NFT Drop Shot also sent a letter to AtomicHub about the apparent Blacklisting that they perform on the entire collection. It is very disconcerting that AtomicHub would just give a blanket ban to the entire collection and not just the 1 NFT that Topps called out. If Topps asked AtomicHub to to ban that 1 NFT, then this would be a very different conversation.

The problem is that though it appears as if the creator of NFT Drop Shots can't do anything about it. AtomicHub is bending to Topps and won't listen to the little guy. It is amazing how this works. Million dollar company that could bring in HUGE amounts of money and people into the WAX blockchain trumps the little creators who were more than likely here before WAX took off. 

Now all that NFT Drop Shots can do is wait and see if AtomicHub relists his NFT's or not...


What can we do about it?

The most obvious thing we can do is boycott Topps on the WAX blockchain. But then again that is a double edged sword. Because to be frank Topps is bringing in a lot of publicity to WAX and helping the price of WAX increase and the traffic to AtomicHub. 

We can support NFT Drop Shots on other platforms. 

https://twitter.com/nftdropshots 

http://www.nftdropshots.com/ 

But when the 'exchange/auction site' decides something then we all have to fall in line. That is unless we can move our NFT's to other 'exchanges/auction site' and continue as if nothing happened. 

I want to make this perfectly clear to everyone though, While I believe Topps overstepped and AtomicHub just folded under any sign of pressure, this is a very real possibility to a lot of NFT creators out there who are copying other Intellectual property. These big players like Topps have a right to fight for their Trademarks. You can also say that they have a legal responsibility to do these cease and desist type of letters. Because if they don't fight IP infringement once, it weakens their claim the next time. In the same breath though some companies like to overstep a lot of go after little guys that are not a threat or are not infringing and companies like AtomicHub will just fold so they don't get into any trouble.


Lessons Learned?

While I feel real bad for the NFT Drop Shot guys, there is a lot we can learn from this whole debacle. Cryptocurrency was meant to be decentralized. 

Decentralized:
controlled by several local offices or authorities rather than one single one.

AtomicHub is the go to spot for WAX NFT buying and selling. That is good and bad. If AtomicHub decides to charge say 20% on all sales starting tomorrow what could we do?

What is super interesting is that the Topps team had somebody or multiple people in the NFT Drop Shot's Discord server gathering data. So even if you think of crypto = anonymous and safe and secure... this is still the internet. We are just in Wild West 2.0

Know what you are getting into before you get into it. This is a weird time where everyday people like you reading this article have a semi even playing field with the big guys. I can sell a NFT trading card right next to Topps or KOGS or Capcom in the same store. That is so incredibly cool and also something I don't think we think too much about. These companies have much deeper pockets then us and money talks and when someone gets in between a company and it's money it doesn't end well.

 

Even the biggest companies can bully the little guy for doing THE EXACT SAME THING they do. Oh the hierocracy by Topps.....

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Topps came out with a line of cards called Wacky Packages in the late 60's early 70's that were purely parody cards. Meant to look just like the real thing but with a twist.

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If this isn't the finest example of the Pot calling the Kettle black then I don't know what is.

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Disclaimer: Before writing this article I got permission from "Krizpy99" aka NFT Drop Shots to write this and use the legal documents he provided that were sent to him by Topps.

 

 

I am curious to all the people reading this. Do you side with Topps in issuing a cease and desist basically. Or do you side with the NFT artist?

How do you rate this article?


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TrocProcLock
TrocProcLock

I am a crypto enthusiast and also a crypto noob :) Just trying to learn more each day.


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