Pinweel Launches Group Photo App, Wants Caterina Fake To Cut It Out With “Pinwheel”

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Keen On… Marcus Whitney (TCTV)

Do you really need another photo-sharing app on your iPhone? The founders of a startup called Pinweel think you do — specifically, one that’s focused on group sharing.

I’ve been playing with Pinweel this morning, and I have to admit that it’s a good-looking app. There’s a simple, colorful interface, with nice touches like the fact that the photographer’s profile picture shows up at the bottom corner of each image. And it has the usual photo app features, like filters, comments, and the ability to give a photo a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

But as I suggested above, Pinweel’s real focus is on the group experience. For example, a group of friends could create an album where they can keep each other updated with their latest pictures. Or an album could be built around specific themes — soccer parents might create an album where they share their game photos.

I’ve talked to several other startups trying to do something similar — but that’s probably because none of the big players have really solved the problem yet. Co-founder Richard Bulman argues that Pinweel is the first app that’s really “cracked the code,” mainly by being super-easy to use. You can set up a new album and establish its privacy settings with just a few taps. And it’s just another tap to join an album, and to upload a photo to that album.

Oh, and the name of the company may sound familiar. That’s because Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake recently launched a new startup called Pinwheel (yes, with the missing “h”). When I brought that up with the Pinweel team, they sent me the following statement:

The intended use of the name “Pinwheel” by Caterina Fake’s new company would be a clear infringement of our prior established rights in the trademark “Pinweel”. We’ve sent notification of this fact to Ms. Fake and asked that she cease any further or intended use of the name “Pinwheel” in order to avoid further enforcement measures on our part.

Asked for more background, Pinweel elaborated, “We didn’t think it was necessary for us to spend a lot of money to purchase Pinwheel.com because we were really confident that we could successfully establish ‘Pinweel’, without the ‘h’, as a memorable brand that’s known for being the best way to share photos.”

As someone who knows very little about trademark law or the pre-launch history of either company, it’s probably best if I don’t touch this. I did email Fake to see if she wanted to comment, but she didn’t respond.

Pinweel is self-funded. (Pinwheel, on the other hand has raised $2 million, which may make a difference if it comes down to a legal battle.) You can download the app here.