Tinder’s Latest Legal Entanglements: Trademark Infringement and Alleged Illegal Payoffs

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Near the end of September, Tinder had a litigious week. News of two legal matters - one new, one ongoing - that involve the dating platform and its parent company recently came to light.

Tinder has issued two complaints alleging trademark infringement to the startup dating app Wild. The complaints concern Wild’s original logo, which featured a mirror image of Tinder’s flame design in place of the dot over the ‘i’. Match Group, owner of the Tinder brand, sent an email to Wild demanding that the logo be changed:

"Your application uses, without authorization, the 'Flame Outline' design/logo, a trademark owned and controlled by Tinder, Inc… As we seek an amicable and swift resolution to this matter, we ask that your app immediately cease using any Tinder trademarks of any other name or mark which is likely to lead consumers to mistakenly believe its products or services are associated with Tinder or authorized by Tinder. If satisfactory modification is not made to address these violations, we ask that your application be removed from the platform."

Wild responded by modifying the logo to feature a different flame image. Unsatisfied, Match Group sent an additional email requesting that Wild cease any use of a flame to represent its brand. Wild called the request “a classic bully tactic” and referred to itself as “one of a number of smaller brands hit with infringement allegations from Tinder in recent years” in a press release about the matter. If Wild refuses to make further modifications, Tinder could be forced to escalate the complaint.

In addition to the trademark tussle with Wild, Match Group and its parent, IAC, are embroiled in a continuing lawsuit with Tinder co-founder and former CEO Sean Rad. The latest development in the case comes courtesy of Bloomberg, which recently reported that IAC is accusing Rad of paying millions of dollars to two then-current Tinder employees in exchange for testimony supporting his claims against IAC. Lawyers or plaintiffs are forbidden to pay witnesses “beyond reasonable expenses” in New York, where the lawsuit has been filed. Rad may be in violation of this law if the New York Supreme Court decides IAC is correct in its claim.

Rad denies the allegation of wrongdoing. His lawyer confirms that payments were made to the two employees, but says they were intended as partial compensation for the losses they suffered from being fired from their positions at IAC for siding with Rad.

“After Tinder employees sued, IAC/Match retaliated by firing them and stripping away their hard-earned equity,” Orin Snyder, Rad’s lawyer, said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. “The accusation that any payments were made in exchange for witness testimony is nonsense.”