Tinder and Bumble Spat about Who Owns the Swipe
Match, which owns the dating app Tinder, has sued rival app Bumble, claiming theft of its intellectual property.
As NPR notes, the two apps (especially in their earlier versions) are similar. Both include a photo and a description of the person seeking a match. The user decides by flicking the screen whether to select or reject another member.
Tinder is the older app. An early employee, Whitney Wolfe Herd, broke up with her boyfriend – who was also her boss and one of the co-founders of Tinder.
Herd left Tinder and sued for sexual harassment. The case eventually settled, and Herd went on to found Bumble, which is considered more female-friendly than Tinder.
Bumble launched in 2014 and now has more than 22 million users.
About 50 million people use Tinder every month.
Match tried and failed (twice) to buy Bumble.
According to CNN, the complaint (filed in March) also claims that two Bumble co-creators formerly employed at Tinder also stole the company’s trade secrets.
Specifically, the suit alleges that the former Tinder employees stole the idea of an “undo” button that’s similar to Bumble’s backtrack feature. This allows users to “like” someone they passed on in the past.
Tinder has a patent for matching people based on mutual interest, as expressed by a swiping motion.
Bumble says this idea shouldn’t qualify for a patent.
In 2014, the US Supreme Court set a new standard for software-based patents in the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International.
In Alice, the court held (among other things) that taking an abstract idea and adding “do it on a computer” didn’t make the idea qualify for patent protection.
Bumble claims that Tinder’s patent failed under the Alice standard because it’s just “matchmaking on the Internet.”
Tinder counters that the swipe-based interface is a true innovation and thus patent-eligible.
Bumble filed its own $400 million countersuit against Match claiming that Match had filed the patent infringement suit because it was still interested in buying Bumble and wanted to make Bumble less attractive to rival suitors, The Verge reported.
According to Fortune,
Bumble also claims Match committed promissory estoppel by promising an investment that never materialized, and that it disparaged Bumble in the lawsuit and in the press. Other claims include unfair competition, violation of the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and fraud, all stemming from Match’s extraction of Bumble company information.
Match called the Bumble lawsuit “petulant.”
Bumble took out full-page ads in the New York Times and The Dallas Morning News, to tell Match off:
We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us. We'll never be yours. No matter the price tag, we'll never compromise our values. We swipe left on your attempted scare tactics, and on these endless games. We swipe left on your assumption that a baseless lawsuit would intimidate us.