Perhaps in no other litigation response letter have the words, “We wish you the best, but consider yourselves blocked” been written – until now. Bumble, a dating app with swiping features pioneered by Tinder, cheekily responded to a March 2018 patent infringement lawsuit filed by Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, using terminology commonly seen in the dating world. The letter is posted on Bumble’s website, amid discussion that Match’s failed attempts to buy Bumble is what sparked the lawsuit.
Match claims Bumble stole its intellectual property, the patent for which was filed in 2013 and granted in 2017. Two weeks after Match filed suit against Bumble, Bumble filed a separate lawsuit against Match for improper obtainment of trade secrets. The lawsuit asks for a cool $400 million from Match. Here are the details and the implications for both companies.
In Bumble’s lawsuit, the company alleges Match only filed a lawsuit after learning several other companies were also interested in purchasing Bumble. As well, during the acquisition discussions with Bumble, Bumble alleges Match fraudulently requested trade secret information in order to push the talks along. In February this year, Tinder introduced a feature similar to Bumble, giving women the option to choose whether or not they want to be the ones to initiate a conversation on the dating app.
The new lawsuit also mentions that Match’s initial lawsuit may have hurt Bumble’s chances of being acquired by other companies. Given that Bumble CEO and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd was an early employee of Tinder and previously sued former Tinder CMO Justin Mateen for sexual harassment and sexual discrimination, the new lawsuits are bound to get complicated.
As you can see from both lawsuits, there are several commercial litigation factors at play here.
Patent infringement is when a party other than the patent creator uses a patent to create an invention without permission from the patent holder.
Damage to Business Reputation
Falsely accusing a business of something can inhibit the company’s ability to attract investors and new clients and retain customers.
Technology disputes relate to intellectual property and the creation of technology, which is often patented. The ownership and use of certain types of technology may be called into question.
Improper Access to and Potential Use of Confidential Information
Confidential information includes trade secrets concerning operations, design and processes, which may be unlawfully used by another company that gains access to them.
With allegations on both sides that intellectual property was stolen from the other party and then used for each app, the lawsuits that have been filed here have many intricacies to address.
The Role of a Commercial Litigation Attorney
In complex cases like these, any business that believes it is a victim of intellectual property theft, patent infringement or any other type of business offense should consult with a commercial litigation attorney. Not only is the money that is sought in a lawsuit at stake, but so are the business reputation, retention of its customers and attraction of new clients.
Ways a commercial litigation attorney will work to help cases like the lawsuits between Bumble and Tinder include:
Investigating business dealings
Interviewing current and former employees
Recording depositions concerning business dealings
Reviewing documents and writing briefs
Businesses may work with in-house counsel or consult with business attorneys regularly to protect their business operations. Because there are so many people involved in commercial litigation cases and so much information to be considered, a commercial litigation team that can interview the right people and most compellingly present business dealings is vital.
Despite high-profile lawsuits like these, online dating isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Pew Research Center reports at least 15 percent of Americans use dating apps, and IBIS World reports the dating services industry was valued at $3 billion in December 2017. In May 2018, Facebook announced its foray into dating services, with plans to release a dating feature that is tied to Facebook profiles.
While new dating apps are constantly popping up, these lawsuits are a reminder of the importance of intellectual property protection, the filing of patents for technology features, and the legality of using certain features in apps. Any business that has a former employee go to a competitor or found a competing company should also be aware of certain risks.
Regardless of what industry your business is in, connecting with a Birmingham commercial litigation attorney can keep you protected should your business face a lawsuit that could negatively affect its company.