It seems like new dating apps are popping up all over the place these days. A common feature of these apps seems to be the ability to “swipe left” or “swipe right” with your finger over the image in order to show interest or not with the other person.
Well, it turns out that Match, parent company of Tinder and other dating services like Match.com and OKCupid, is pretty upset that their swiping features and functionality are being used by other apps. Match recently sued competitor Bumble for patent infringement over its similar swiping features.
Intellectual property and patent attorney Karima Gulick from Gulick Law has recently summarized the patent issues raised in the lawsuit. Vice President at experts.com Nick Rishwain has also written an article on this new case with this thoughts.
It’s not just a patent battle. There’s a trademark dispute here as well.
Match claims to own registered trademarks for “SWIPE,” “SWIPE LEFT,” and “SWIPE RIGHT.” It argues that Bumble is using these words and phrases prominently throughout its app and promotional materials. According to Match, this is infringing on their trademark rights and damaging their company. Not only that, Match argues that Bumble’s use of “swipe” and its variations are “causing . . . a likelihood of confusion and deception of members of the public,” “will . . . actually deceive the public or is at least likely to deceive the public regarding the source, sponsorship, and/or affiliation,” and “demonstrate an intentional, willful, and malicious intent to trade on goodwill associated with” these marks.
It’s true, “Match Group, LLC” owns a registered trademark for “SWIPE” for “computer application software for mobile devices, namely, software for social introduction and dating services.” This application has faced opposition for being too descriptive but remains active. Match also has several pending registrations for “SWIPE LEFT” and “SWIPE RIGHT.”
So, does Match own exclusive rights to “Swipe”?
In order for a trademark owner to have exclusive rights to that trademark, the trademark must be sufficiently distinctive. If this lawsuit continues, it will be very interesting to see how the attorneys for these companies will debate the distinctiveness of these marks.
The key question is: is the terminology around “swiping” distinctive to Tinder, or has the term become a more ubiquitous term that the average consumer would not associate specifically with Tinder or Match’s other services?