Singapore High Court Judge Rules that NFTs are Property

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  • A Singapore High Court judge has ruled that NFTs can be considered property
  • The ruling, which is not yet binding, was made during a case involving a BAYC NFT
  • Justice Lee Seiu Kin said that NFTs share many common traits with property ownership

The Singapore High Court has ruled that NFTs are property in an important step forward for the nascent genre. In its first written judgement on a case involving an NFT, Justice Lee Seiu Kin ruled that NFTs could be considered as property as they fulfilled certain legal requirements, such as being easily distinguishable from one another and having owners capable of being recognised as such by third parties.

Ruling is Not Precedent…Yet

Justice Lee explained his ruling to illustrate why he had granted an injunction to stop any potential sale and ownership transfer of an NFT for a specific case back in May. However, he reinforced that the decision, which he said hadn’t included presentations from both sides over the matter due to time constraints, was only over an interlocutory application (a pre-trial request for a court order) and so should be read in the proper context.

This means that his ruling is not as binding as it would have been in a court order and may change down the line once full submissions have been offered. Nevertheless, the injunction to prevent the sale of the NFT represents the first such to be granted in Asia, and is also reportedly the first globally for a purely commercial dispute.

In October 2018, a district judge in China said that holders of bitcoin should be granted the same protection as holders of property, although did not go so far as to say that it would be formally classed as such.

BAYC 2162 at Centre of Dispute

The decision was sought by Janesh Rajkumar, a Singaporean, who wanted to protect Bored Ape Yacht Club No. 2162 from being removed from his ownership. This is understandable, given that the floor price for BAYC NFTs is over $100,000 at the time of writing.

Interestingly, Opensea has a warning posted on this NFT, advising that it ‘cannot be bought or sold due to suspicious activity.’