A Muslim dating and marriage app, Muzmatch, on Wednesday lost a legal battle against the owners of Tinder, one of the world’s most popular dating apps, after a UK court ruled the start-up had infringes the trademarks of the multi-billion dollar company.
Match Group – a dating site conglomerate that owns Match.com, OKCupid, Hinge as well as Tinder – sued Muzmatch for infringing on its trademark logo, using “match” in its name and for “unfairly benefiting” from corporate reputation and brand investment.
The decision by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in London could mean that Muzmatch, which claims to have six million users worldwide, must change its name and pay damages. Its founder and chief executive, Shahzad Younas, broke the news on Wednesday, saying Muzmatch would file an appeal. “We are more focused than ever on our mission to transform the way Muslims meet and marry,” he said.
Match Group said it was “pleased that the court recognized what we knew to be true: that Muzmatch unfairly benefited from Match Group’s reputation and investment in its brand and was following in Match’s footsteps. Group for an undeserved gain in this highly competitive market”.
In its court documents, Match argued that the company’s dominance in the online dating market meant that consumers would mistakenly assume that Muzmatch was a “sub-brand” specifically aimed at Muslim users because of the use of “match” in its name.
Muzmatch said “match” was simply an English word associated with matchmaking.
Mr. Younas, a former investment banker, launched Muzmatch in 2011, with the aim of helping single Muslims find spouses online in a way consistent with Islamic values. A mobile app was introduced in 2015. The service is often listed among the top dating apps for Muslims and has attracted $9 million in funding.
US-based Match Group posted $3 billion in revenue last year and more than 16 million paying customers.
The dispute dates back to 2016, when Match opposed the start-up’s trademark filing for “Muzmatch” in Europe and the United States. Match’s lawyers also objected to the use of a heart and typeface in Muzmatch’s logo at the time, which were eventually removed.
As Muzmatch’s user base grew, Match made moves to buy the company, eventually offering as much as $35 million in 2019, Youngas said.
Convinced that the conglomerate could not help the app grow, Mr. Younas, Muzmatch’s sole director, turned down the offer. Later that year, Match acquired Harmonica, a Muslim dating startup in Egypt.
Match has not confirmed whether it is interested in purchasing Muzmatch or whether Muzmatch’s description of the process is accurate.
Mr. Younas said he was concerned the court’s ruling could have a chilling effect on smaller companies in the tech industry.
“It’s just their tactic,” he said. “They’ll woo you, they’ll get your data, they’ll try to buy you off, and when that doesn’t work, they’ll either go after a competitor or kill you,” Younas said. “A million dollars for them in legal fees is little change. For us, that’s it.