Bumble responds to Match Group’s patent infringement lawsuit

Bumble is continuing to go on the offensive against Match Group. Earlier this week, the dating app maker said it was serving Match Group with papers (which Match Group said at the time it hadn’t yet received – but it has now). Bumble is taking Match Group to court for fraudulently obtaining trade secrets during acquisition talks. Today, Bumble is also officially responding to Match Group’s suit against it, which claims patent infringement and misuse of intellectual property.

Bumble this morning put out a statement, indicating that it plans to now take the battle to court:

“Bumble has today formally responded to Match’s lawsuit from March 2018 alleging patent infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. We believe all of the claims are baseless, and are seeking to have several claims dismissed immediately, given their lack of merit.

As stated previously, this was a thinly veiled attempt by Match to interfere with Bumble’s growth, as Bumble continues to take share from Tinder, and to scare potential suitors so Match could acquire Bumble at below market value. It also demonstrates an attempt by Match to monopolize the very practice of making real, meaningful connections. Match did not invent the world of dating; men and especially women everywhere deserve the opportunity to connect with who they want, on their terms, and Bumble will continue to stand up for our users and our values as we take this battle to court.”

The two companies have a history of bad blood between them.

Bumble was founded by CEO Whitney Wolfe, who was also a co-founder at Tinder and had previously sued Tinder for sexual harassment. She then branded Bumble as a more empowering dating app for women, by allowing women to start the chats first.

Like many dating apps on the market today, Bumble uses the double opt-in mechanism of creating matches, as determined by a right swipe on a profile card.

The app has grown to over 40 million users, Wolfe said recently at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, and the company says its revenue run rate has now climbed to $200 million per year.

Match Group has unsuccessfully tried to acquire Bumble twice – once in a deal that would have valued it at over $1 billion.

Bumble says Match Group filed its original lawsuit against it to make it less attractive to other potential acquirers.

The two tried to work out their differences since the lawsuits’ filings in March, but were unsuccessful. Now, they’re headed to court – and to the press.

The claims Match Group makes around patent infringement involve Bumble’s use of a stack of profile cards, mutual opt-in, and its swiped-based gestures – things Tinder popularized for dating apps, but have since become something of an industry standard, similar to how Facebook’s News Feed became a model for other social apps. But whether or not Bumble is illegally infringing on those patents will be left to the courts to decide.

Match Group is very aggressive when it comes to maintaining a dominant position in the dating app market.

The company already owns top brands like Tinder, Match.com, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, and others. It also more recently took a majority stake in Hinge. And it often copies the features of rivals it doesn’t own, as it did with Hinge’s media-sharing feedCoffee Meets Bagel’s top picks, Happn’s location-based features, and, as of this week, Bumble’s “ladies first” feature.

Match Group has offered the following comment, available in the document below.

Bumble’s petition is nothing more than a publicity stunt.  While Bumble immediately hit the media circuit when it filed its lawsuit, it did nothing with the petition for almost a full six months after it filed.  This is not surprising; the claims it asserts in this case are entirely and completely without merit.  It was only when it became clear that Match would no longer abide Bumble’s requests for extensions of time to respond to Match’s co-pending lawsuit in the Western District of Texas—and with an October 12, 2018 hearing scheduled in this action to address potential dismissal for want of prosecution—Bumble decided it had to press forward with this meritless case.  Beyond confirming that Bumble’s petition is merely a headline masquerading as a lawsuit, this course of conduct also confirms a related point: Bumble’s case and Match’s case belong together—in the Waco federal court, where Match’s action is pending.  It is there that Bumble’s claims will be dismissed in due course.

Update: Post updated 9/27/18, 12:45 PM ET with Match Group comment.