A Muslim dating and marriage app, Muzmatch, lost a legal battle on Wednesday against the owners of Tinder, one of the world’s most popular dating apps, after a British court ruled that the startup had infringed the trademarks of the multi-million dollar company.
Match Group, a conglomerate of dating sites that owns Match.com, OKCupid, Hinge and Tinder, sued Muzmatch for infringing its trademark logo, using “match” in its name and for “unfairly benefiting” from the reputation of the company and investment in its brand.
The ruling, from London’s Intellectual Property Companies Court, could mean that Muzmatch, which claims to have six million users worldwide, must change its name and pay damages. Its founder and CEO, Shahzad Younas, announced 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 had unfairly profited from Match Group’s reputation and investment in its brand and was taking advantage of Match Group’s unearned profits in this highly competitive”.
In its court papers, Match argued that the company’s dominance of the online dating market meant consumers wrongly assumed Muzmatch was a “secondary brand” specifically targeting Muslim users due to the use of “match” in its name.
Muzmatch said that “match” was simply an English word associated with matchmaking.
Mr. Younas, a former investment banker, started Muzmatch in 2011, with the aim of helping single Muslims find spouses online in a way consistent with Islamic values. In 2015 a mobile application was introduced. The service regularly ranks among the top dating apps for Muslims and has attracted $9 million in funding.
US-based Match Group reported $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 registration for “Muzmatch” in Europe and the United States. Match’s lawyers also objected to the use of a heart and the typeface in the Muzmatch logo at the time, which were eventually dropped.
As Muzmatch’s user base grew, Match made proposals to buy the company, eventually offering as much as $35 million in 2019, Youngas said.
Convinced that the conglomerate couldn’t help the app grow, Younas, the sole director of Muzmatch, turned down the offer. Later that year, Match acquired Harmonica, a Muslim dating company in Egypt.
Match did not confirm whether it was interested in purchasing Muzmatch or whether the description of the Muzmatch process was accurate.
Younas said he was concerned the court ruling could have a chilling effect on smaller companies in the tech industry.
“This is just their tactic,” he said. “They will court you, they will get your data, they will try to buy you, and when that doesn’t work they will go after a competitor or just kill you,” Mr. Younas said. “A million dollars for them in legal fees is a small change. For us, it is everything.”