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.
Intimidation by Lawsuit?
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.
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.
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.
When a sourpussed cat is in the courtroom, things are bound to get interesting.
Grumpy Cat who’s real name is actually Tardar Sauce is the lovable and actually not so grumpy feline who inspired a million memes in 2012 and beyond. He was recently involved in a commercial lawsuit that resulted in a $710,000 settlement to her owner, Tabatha Bundesen. According to the plaintiff, Grenade beverage company exploited the name and likeness of the famed feline in product lines that included beverages and T-shirts. The plaintiff alleged she had never agreed to let her beloved kitty be used for the products.
How It All Started
In 2013, Grenade owners Nick and Paul Sandford created an agreement with Bundesen’s Grumpy Cat Limited, her company promoting her cat, to sell a line of Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino iced coffees. Two years later, Grenade started selling a line of Grumpy Cat Roasted Coffee, which was not part of the deal. Grumpy Cat Limited sued, seeking damages for copyright infringement, infringement and dilution of trademark, and domain name exploitation.
Perhaps one of the most grin-inducing commercial litigation complaints to be read, the complaint states, “Ironically, while the world-famous feline Grumpy Cat and her valuable brand are most often invoked in a tongue-and-cheek fashion, Defendants’ despicable misconduct here has actually given Grumpy Cat and her owners something to be grumpy about.” The lawsuit also sought royalties for profits made off the cat’s likeness.
The Battle Wages On
Since entering litigation, Grumpy Cat Limited and Grenade engaged in a more-than-2-year court battle. Grenade countersued Grumpy Cat Limited, claiming Grumpy Cat Limited did not promote the iced coffee promotion enough. The countersuit sought $12 million in damages based on potential lost revenue.
Grumpy Cat’s posting about the coffee 17 times on social media was not enough for Grenade. The Grenade owners also claimed that a social media posting of the iced coffee by Bundensen’s brother before the coffee made it to market deflated product launch potential. The countersuit also states that on an appearance with Fox News, Tardar’s handlers were supposed to say, “Watch out, Starbucks. The cat’s coming for it,” but never did.
The countersuit also claimed that during the iced coffee negotiations, Grumpy Cat Limited said that Tardar would be starring in a movie with actors Jack Black and Will Ferrell. Tardar and company never made said movie. Grumpy Cat Limited’s legal team alleged the Grenade owners knew that Grumpy Cat was linked to a movie producer who was involved in another movie with the two comedians – not that Grumpy Cat would star in a movie with them.
The case made it to trial, which raged on for a week and triggered an in-person appearance by Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce. Upon the eight-person jury’s verdict, Grumpy Cat Limited’s attorney David Jonelis said, “Grumpy Cat feels vindicated.”
What Can Be Learned from the Grumpy Cat Trial?
As Birmingham commercial litigation attorneys, the Pittman, Dutton & Hellums team often deals with similar breach of contract issues — though usually not with a client as cute as Grumpy Cat. As can be seen from the substantial settlement offer, the Grumpy Cat trial was no laughing matter. Here are some key takeaways:
Make sure any commercial contract you enter is extremely detailed for your protection. Both sides in the Grumpy Cat case sued each other for various reasons. Whenever a contract is negotiated, various scenarios should be covered to avoid future potential litigation. Working with an attorney helps protect you in many situations, both in the case you need to pursue legal action against a partner or need to protect yourself.
Keep all business records. Emails and text messages can be powerful evidence in a commercial litigation case. If you are suspicious about the dealings with a partner, retain all communications and seek to get confirmations in writing that protect you.
Do not sign anything you are uncomfortable with. When your business or an entity you work with is your livelihood, strive to only form legal partnerships with companies you are comfortable with. Negotiate terms so that you are completely satisfied with what you are getting. Anytime your business has to face litigation, you are putting your reputation at risk with current clients and with potential new customers. Think Grumpy Cat’s ardent millions of followers will check out other products from Grenade since Grumpy Cat Limited sued them? Chances are good they’ll get their coffee elsewhere.
If you feel that your business has been harmed by negligent practices or has been exploited by an offending company, you may have a commercial lawsuit worth pursuing. Contact us for a free commercial litigation consultation.
If you are a business owner, having knowledge about the types of lawsuits that affect businesses can help you prepare should you need to file one or find yourself in one some day. Commercial litigation encompasses any type of dispute that can happen in a business setting. Whether you want to file a claim against a key stakeholder who left and illegally impacted business finances, or you need to protect yourself against a breach of contract, these types of legal business issues fall under commercial litigation.
Unlike civil litigation, where a lawsuit occurs between two parties and a plaintiff seeks compensation or damages from a defendant, in commercial litigation, the business entity becomes one of the parties. Commercial litigation may involve:
A business versus a business
An individual versus a business
Several individuals versus a business
A business versus a government entity
While many of the aspects between civil litigation and business litigation may be similar, such as research discovery and court trials, commercial litigation can get extremely more complicated because of the complexity of the issues and stakeholders involved. Consumer class action lawsuits are a type of commercial litigation, in which several (sometimes thousands) of plaintiffs file a lawsuit together as one. This may happen when a negligent company disseminates a dangerous prescription drug, for example.
Because the stakes of a business reputation and business finances are at risk, commercial litigation lawsuits may last much longer than civil lawsuits, as well. These complexities warrant the need for an expert commercial litigation team to navigate to make the process successful for the parties they’re representing.
Types of Commercial Litigation
Commercial litigation includes virtually any case that involves a business and its strategy and implementation of that strategy. Some of these types of cases include:
Breach of contract
Mergers and acquisitions
Real estate fraud
Wage and hour claims
Some litigious incidents that happen at a business, such as someone falling or slipping in a store, would not fall under commercial litigation – rather, that would be a personal injury case if the plaintiff decides to sue.
Some lawsuits against a company can debilitate a venture, bankrupting the company and tarnishing the name and reputation of not only the business, but of its executives and employees associated with it. Some commercial lawsuits become “bet the company” cases, where the outcome of a company’s performance depends on a single lawsuit. This outcome may hinge on the financial stakes of the lawsuit, the ability to use intellectual property that is concerned in a lawsuit, or a combination of a number of other factors.
“Bet the company” cases aren’t the only lawsuits that cause headaches for companies. Law dealings that aren’t handled by the proper team can result in production stoppages, recalls of products and more. Having an experienced lawyer to handle all business dealings in the first place helps to ensure a company is protected in their operations.
Benefits of a Relationship with a Commercial Litigation Lawyer
Business owners hope they never end up in court, but the grim reality is that disputes happen more often than you might think. According to the BTI Litigation Outlook 2018: Changes, Trends, and Opportunities for Law Firms report by independent research firm BTI Consulting Group, the number one litigation trend in 2018 is the expected increase in litigation spending by businesses. The report shows large companies are adding $1 billion in litigation spending this year. Settlements are also expected to reach a record high in 2018.
To protect the most precious assets a business has – employees, finances and reputation – forming relationships with a commercial litigation law firm can help a business to understand current lawsuit trends they should be aware of. The best lawsuit protection is to avoid one in the first place, but having a strong relationship with a commercial litigation attorney benefits a business that experiences it. Often, commercial litigation cases involve forensic investigations, witness interviews and other complicated research, which is where an attorney’s assistance is vital.
For individuals, going after businesses in a dispute is challenging. While there are so many laws in place to protect employees and customers, large corporations often have extensive, experienced legal teams to protect them. Having an attorney on your side to fight for you is paramount.
If you are a business owner or an individual who has questions about commercial litigation, the Birmingham commercial litigation attorneys at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums can help. Call (866) 515-8880 or text (205) 900-4188 for a free consultation.
The recoveries and testimonials on this website are not an indication of future results. Every case is different, and regardless of what friends, family, or other individuals may say about what a case is worth, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances as they apply to the law. The valuation of a case depends on the facts, the injuries, the jurisdiction, the venue, the witnesses, the parties, and the testimony, among other factors. Furthermore, no representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.