Tinder's parent company, Match Group, have brought an infringement case against their dating app competitor, Bumble. The Claimant is an American internet company that owns a large group of dating services including Tinder, Match.com, OKCupid and PlentyOfFish. A complaint has been filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas alleging, amongst other things, patent, trademark and trade dress infringement, and violating trade secrets.
Trade dress is an intellectual property right that protects the total image of a product including its appearance, aesthetic features and the way it is "dressed up". If the individual elements of a product aren't unique or functional enough they will not meet the requirements for trade dress protection. Trade dress is intended to protect consumers from buying a product that is believed to be another. The concept of trade dress originated in the US; the common law tort of passing off is the trade dress equivalent here in the UK.
Bumble is a location-based dating app, like Tinder, but it was established two years after Tinder in 2014. The company has been accused of patent infringement by using the same well-known matching functions of Tinder, where a user "swipes left" or "swipes right" on another member's profile depending on physical attraction by looking at a user's photograph. Tinder also allege Bumble have mimicked other elements of their app, including its general look and feel as well as their 'swipe' trademark. In a report, the Claimant explained that a lot of time and effort has been invested in developing and advertising these unique elements of Tinder.
Match have also alleged that Bumble's co-founders, who are three ex-executives of Tinder, have violated trade secrets. The co-founders have been accused of misappropriating confidential information they learnt while working at Tinder and investing this knowledge into the Bumble app.
To resolve the infringement dispute, Match are hoping to obtain a remedy of a preliminary and permanent injunction and damages. The Claimant has previously been in talks with Bumble to buy the company, however, in November 2017, Bumble declined an acquisition offer of $450 million. The allegations of intellectual property infringement, however, may be used to pressure Bumble into accepting their offer in return for withdrawing their claims.
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