JDate accuses JSwipe of infringing on its territory catering to Jewish singles and is suing for trademark and patent infringement of the letter “J”.
It’s the battle of the 21st century shadchans: JDate is suing competitor JSwipe for trademark and patent infringement of the letter “J” and the meaning behind the word “swipe.”
JSwipe popped on the scene in 2014, just as mobile app-based dating became more and more popular. It is often compared to Tinder, a free dating app that allows people to connect with others based on mutual interests and location by swiping right to connect and left to pass. JSwipe has been dubbed the “Jewish Tinder” in the online dating world.
JDate is a paid services site that has been matchmaking for about 18 years.
The two Jewish dating sites are still in the litigation process, which began November 2014.
Michael Egan, CEO at Spark Networks, JDate’s parent company, said the lawsuit started when the company noticed the then newly created JSwipe had similarities to its own software patent.
JDate’s patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,950,200, owns the “method and apparatus for detection of reciprocal interests or feelings and subsequent notification.” Some other dating sites have a license to use this patent, which Egan could not disclose, but JSwipe does not.
On JSwipe, the swiping right for “yes” and left for “no” indicates mutual interest. Once both parties show that interest, they can communicate.
Egan said the lawsuit focuses not only on the infringement of that technology, but also of their trademark.
If customers confuse his brand with JSwipe and possibly don’t receive the same service, that could damage JDate’s reputation, he said.
Egan said he could not divulge how many users have complained about this brand confusion, but said he has seen comments from people online stating the two companies as one.
The main consumer confusion comes from the word “swipe” more so than the letter “J.” The trademark infringement comes from the letter “J” followed by another word synonymous for “date,” Egan said.
He added that in today’s online dating sphere, especially after the emergence of Tinder, people think the word “swipe” is synonymous with dating, which would then confuse users that JSwipe is a part of JDate.
He said language is always morphing, and the popular vernacular is all about how people perceive that word with other words, adding that other sites like JWed do not have the same synonymy to JDate because of the different meanings behind those words.
JDate had a prior patent issue in 2011 with another dating site that predates Egan, but he said the other unnamed company settled.
In fact, Egan started at Spark Networks on Jan. 2, about two months after the litigation with JSwipe began.
David Yarus, founder of JSwipe, said he created the app because he saw the need for it.
Looking for his beshert himself when he moved to New York City five years ago, he didn’t have much luck using the traditional methods of putting himself out there, like going to parties or Shabbat dinners.
He found other dating sites outdated and more for the boomer generation, and thought there should be a better tool for the Jewish community.
“Millennial Jews needed their own place where they felt comfortable,” he said. “We are a young, super-lean start-up driven by passion and purpose and impact that’s set out to bring innovation to a space — specifically the Jewish dating space — that really needed the latest technology that hasn’t seen much innovation in over a decade.”
Yarus reached out to the community for support. To cover legal fees that could skyrocket between $300,000 and $500,000, Yarus created a fundraising page for JSwipe using Indiegogo. It has currently raised almost $19,000 — only 10 percent of its goal.
“We believe that [JDate’s] claims lack merit and [we] intend to defend ourselves vicariously,” he said.
JSwipe was launched over Passover 2014. At that time, Spark Networks listed $15.8 million in revenue and a net loss of $1.1 million in its quarterly report. JDate also launched its mobile app around the same time as JSwipe’s release.
By the second quarter of 2015, JDate’s revenue decreased to $12.3 million, but with only $95,000 in net losses.
Yarus compared this lawsuit to others going on with start-ups: Uber versus the taxi and limousine service industry, or Airbnb versus the hotel industry. Larger companies find the smaller, cheaper-for-customers start-ups to be competition and threat.
Since JSwipe’s beginning, the company has gained more than 375,000 users. JDate currently has about 450,000 registered users.
Carly Friedman from Bryn Mawr met her boyfriend, Andrew, on JDate. Her brothers had success on the site, so her mother suggested trying it out. They’ve been together for two years.
The 23-year-old said some of the couple’s friends use dating apps like Tinder and JSwipe and view them as more casual relationships or flings, whereas the distinction with JDate is that it is for people looking for something more serious, especially because users must pay for its services — or have their Jewish parents pay for it.
Gregory Mandel, associate dean for research and professor of law at Temple University Beasley School of Law, said he finds it extremely unlikely that there would be a lot of consumer confusion between the two brands.
Additionally, he said the letter “J” associated with another word is no longer primarily descriptive in the public’s perspective but rather identifies a particular source, resonating more with Judaism itself than JDate specifically.
Mandel noted that JDate’s patent, filed in January 1997, is approaching its expiration date in less than two years, and hypothesized that they are asserting this lawsuit now as a result.
He said JSwipe could potentially argue that this patent is invalid and overbroad, but even so, JDate would not lose much because the patent will expire soon.
Mandel predicts that JSwipe will settle and it would be unlikely that this case actually goes to trial.
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