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Dating apps Tinder and Bumble recently made headlines in multiple IP and business news outlets as the 2-year long patent dispute, initiated by Tinder, allegedly came to an end with a mutually pleasing resolution. The decision made between the two rival companies has not yet been disclosed (at the time of writing).

Tinder vs. Bumble

Tinder was founded in September 2012. Among the founding group was Whitney Wolfe Herd, who left Tinder in 2014 to start Bumble. A match on both apps requires opt-in from both parties, which is done by either swiping-right to opt-in to allow a chat with the other party or opt-out by swiping-left. The key difference between the two apps is that Bumble only allows women to initiate an online chat with anyone they match with. This is could be due to the ratio of men using dating apps being higher than women on average.

What is Tinder’s Patent Dispute About?

Tinder Inc. filed for a patent entitled “Matching process system and method” in 2008 to protect their algorithm for matching people for dates. They received a grant for their US patent application in 2013.

The parent company of Tinder Inc, Match Group, decided to sue Bumble in 2019 for patent infringement and misuse of intellectual property, stating that Bumble “copied Tinder’s world-changing, card-swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise.”

Part of the legal dispute between Tinder and Bumble is calling to question the patentability of Tinder’s intellectual property. According to statements made by Bumble representatives, they do not believe that the abstract idea presented by Tinder surrounding their matching methodology meets the requirements of a patent.

How The Internet Affected Patentability

In the era of the Internet, individuals realised they could secure a patent for an otherwise abstract idea by associating it with an existing technology. To illustrate, obtaining a patent for the concept of “meal planning” was initially unattainable, but for a period, securing one for internet-based meal planning was possible.

However, a pivotal shift occurred four years ago with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International. This ruling, commonly known as the Alice decision, established new guidelines for patenting software. It clarified that if an abstract idea is merely implemented using a computer or the Internet, it remains an abstract idea and is not eligible for patent protection.

Tinder’s Patented Swipe Mechanic – Invention or an Abstract Idea?

At the heart of the matter is the patented system by Tinder that facilitates online connections between individuals. This system relies on matching users through a swiping motion, reflecting mutual interest. While it is a tangible patent, Bumble contests its validity.

The key issue revolves around the fundamental purpose of patents, which is to protect inventions rather than abstract ideas. Patents traditionally apply to concrete machines or processes; if you can design a functional machine, or product, it can be patented. However, patents are not granted for general ideas or overarching concepts without a specific embodiment.

In regards to Tinder’s patent for the swipe mechanic combined with the concept of matching people, it is tricky to say whether it falls under invention or abstract. So far, the specifics of the resolution between Tinder and Bumble have not been disclosed to the public, but both parties claim the resolution was amicable.

Tinder’s Patenting Activity

With just a few clicks, PatBase users can generate a report of an assignee’s activity using Assignee Snapshot. Tinder appears to have been particularly active in applying for patents in 2016. The granted publications within family 43432781 that have been used to support legal action against competitor Bumble are US10203854BB and US9733811BB. 

What Tinder’s Patent Dispute Highlights

The disagreement between the two firms exemplifies a recent change in how the American legal system handles software patents. Overall, it underscores the difficulties of adapting a patent system originally devised to safeguard inventors of physical machines to the era of the Internet. It will be interesting to see what comes of this patent dispute. As more digitisation occurs around the world, this case provides a good example of the complexity of patents. 

Easily Search For Patent Data with Minesoft

PatBase is a powerful tool for searching, reviewing, analysing and sharing patent information. The database holds collections of patent documents from 106 jurisdictions including 74 full-text collections, making PatBase one of the most comprehensive patent data collections available. All the graphs and patent information included in this article are from PatBase. 

The Legal Information Browser integrated into the solution simplifies searching for up-to-date legal information for patents of interest. Using PatBase’s Legal Information Browser, it is easy to see the legal status events for a patent family. Each event is colour coded, and descriptions provide more information about what is happening.

At Minesoft, we also offer our advanced AI-powered patent search software, Minesoft Origin. Make quicker decisions in fast-moving markets, enabling your team to excel in research and development. Break down long patent documents into easily digestible snippets of information at the click of a button. 

To learn more about how PatBase and Minesoft Origin can empower your patent research process, and provide valuable insights you can use to enhance your IP strategies, get in touch with us today and request a demo.