SINGAPORE — The High Court of Singapore has ruled that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be considered property, in its first written judgment on a case involving an NFT.
NFTs are tokens that exist on decentralized digital ledgers called blockchains. They can be used to represent underlying assets, which can be digital or physical, such as works of art, videos and music.
In his reasons for decision issued last Friday, Judge Lee Seiu Kin held that NFTs could be considered property because they met certain legal requirements, such as being easily distinguishable from each other and having owners capable of being recognized as such by third parties.
He had published the reasons why he had granted an injunction in May to stop any potential sale and transfer of ownership of an NFT.
But Judge Lee pointed out that the injunction request was an urgent request where one of the parties to the case was not required to be present at the court hearing and therefore he had no advantage of hearing arguments from this side.
He added that his decision dealt with an interlocutory application – a pre-trial request for a court order, usually on procedural matters – and therefore should be read in the proper context.
“A different conclusion may well be drawn with the benefit of more comprehensive submissions,” he said.
The injunction granted by Judge Lee would be the first in Asia. It would also be the first litigation in the world for a purely commercial dispute.
He was approached by Mr Janesh Rajkumar, a Singaporean, to protect an NFT known as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) No 2162.
BAYC is a limited collection of NFTs, each depicting a monkey with distinctive attributes such as facial expressions, clothing, and accessories.
They are considered a coveted status symbol, with some apparently belonging to celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Madonna.
Mr. Janesh is seeking to repossess BAYC #2162 of an online character named “chefpierre”, whose identity is listed as unknown in court documents. His trial, which began in Singapore, is still ongoing.