The US dating giant behind Tinder and OkCupid has won a court battle with a British dating app for Muslims after accusing it of copying its product and services.
Muzmatch, the world’s largest Muslim dating and marriage app, could lose the right to use its name following the legal battle with Match Group, which also owns Hinge and Match.com.
The UK intellectual property and enterprise court ruled that Muzmatch had infringed the trademark of Match Group, which claims to have “pioneered the concept of online dating” more than 20 years ago.
In his judgment, the deputy high court judge Nicholas Caddick QC stated that this “would have led some consumers to assume that the goods and services offered by Muzmatch were somehow connected with or derived from Match”.
The US conglomerate, which has a market capitalisation of about $37bn, accused Muzmatch of “piggybacking on established dating brands” to improve its success.
It argued that Muzmatch, which has 6 million users worldwide, used “match” and “Tinder” in its website metadata to drive internet traffic to the platform.
According to the American company, the British firm also used keyword tags including “match-muslim” and “uk-muslim-match”, which it claimed were an attempt to “ride on the coattails” of Match’s registered trademarks.
A Match Group spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court recognised what we have known to be true: that Muzmatch has unfairly benefited from Match Group’s reputation and investment in its brand and was riding Match Group’s coattails for undeserved gain in this highly competitive market. We have, and will always protect the work, creativity and innovations of our employees, and are grateful that the court recognised this and ruled accordingly.”
Muzmatch’s chief executive, Shahzad Younas, said he would appeal against the judgment but vowed to continue the platform, even if it meant rebranding.
Younas, 37, a former Morgan Stanley banker who launched Muzmatch in 2011 with the aim of providing a safe environment for single Muslims to meet online, added that he had spent $1m fighting Match Group in court in the UK and the US.
He added: “The number of Muslims in the community, Muslim organisations, and individuals, businesses, etc, who’ve said: ‘I’m so glad that you’re fighting this and you didn’t back down’ … For them, there was a principle at stake. In their eyes, and we’ve heard this from customers as well, it’s so important that a Muslim-led startup creates products for the community.”
In its defence, Muzmatch said it had chosen the Muzmatch mark as a play on “Muslim” and “match”. The company argued that its website and app clearly stated that it provided matchmaking and introduction services for Muslims who were looking for marriage, in accordance with Islamic values.
Match Group wrote to Muzmatch in 2016 alleging acts of trademark infringement and a year later it tried to acquire the company. In total, four offers to acquire the business were made, including one for $35m, according to Muzmatch, which rejected them. Match said it was approached by Younas for acquisition talks.
Match Group subsequently bought Harmonica, an Egyptian Muslim matchmaking app, which it renamed Hawaya.
Match has previously been involved in legal disputes with the founders of rival Bumble and Tinder.