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Match Group (Tinder) v. Bumble: Online Dating Company That Owns Tinder Sues Dating App Founders by Tinder’s Co-Founders

Reports Patent Trademark

Jury Trial Demanded, Plaintiff Match Group, LLC’s Original Complaint, Match Group, LLC v. Bumble Trading Inc., No. 6:18-cv-00080 (W.D. Tex, Mar. 16, 2018), hosted by Scribd.

On March 16, 2018, Match Group, an online dating company that owns Tinder, sued another dating app, Bumble Trading Inc., founded by three ex-Tinder executives, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, alleging eight causes of action that included utility patent infringement, design patent infringement, and trademark infringement.

In the complaint, Match Group focused on the “swipe left” and “swipe right” features of Tinder, which have been granted a utility patent and design patent related to the use of this dating app. Match claimed, by applying a similar “swipe” feature and copying the “world-changing, card swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise,” Bumble infringed Tinder’s patents and trademark. Match/Tinder has been awarded a utility patent with U.S. Patent No. 9,733,811 for its “Matching Process System and Method” and a Registered Trademark No. 4,465,926 for its “swipe” features. In the complaint, Match Group also claimed that Bumble had copied Tinder’s user interface, chat screen, and other features. As a result, Match Group sought for injunction restraining Bumble from violating its patent rights and other rights under Lanham Act and common law unfair competition. Additionally, since Bumble was developed by ex-Tinder’s co-founders, Match Group also claimed that they stole “confidential information related to proposed Tinder features,” a feature that allows users to undo swipes, and therefore sought for an injunction restraining Bumble from misappropriation of Match/Tinder’s trade secrets.

Bumble was founded by three ex-Tinder’s co-founders, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick. Bumble is slightly different from Tinder in one particular application feature: In Tinder, both men and women can initiate conversations, whereas Bumble was developed with an aim to provide women the option to control the relationship – a feature that Tinder also subsequently developed. In 2014, Herd filed a lawsuit against Tinder and its Chief Marketing Officer for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. However, the two parties settled the lawsuit without admission of any wrongdoing.

Prior to the filing of the intellectual property rights lawsuit, there were reports that Match was interested in acquiring Bumble, which had been gaining much popularity among college students. Since its formation in 2014, Bumble directly competed with Tinder in the field of online dating. In 2017, according to Forbes, it had acquired more than 22 million registered users and achieved a 70% year-over-year growth, a figure that was ten times larger than Tinder. Recently in August, 2017, TechCrunch reported that Match made an offer to acquire Bumble for $450 million. This offer was declined by Bumble, presumably under an assumed valuation of $1 billion at the time. According to Forbes, Match later approached Bumble with another higher valuation of “well over” $1 billion.

According to Recode and Axios, the lawsuit against Bumble may serve as a “bargaining chip” by Match to pressurize Bumble to return to the negotiation of the previously-declined acquisition deal: The idea is that if Bumble is acquired by Match Group, the lawsuit will necessarily be dropped.

Yang Yu is a 1L student at Harvard Law School.