This post has been updated.
Are Tinder and Bumble essentially the same dating app?
That’s the question at the heart of a lawsuit that Tinder has filed this month against its dating-app competitor Bumble, alleging that Bumble has copied Tinder’s “card-swipe-based, mutual opt-in premise,” creating a “Tinder-clone.”
Much like the arguments in every relationship, this spat is not new. Tinder and Bumble — and executives at the two companies — have been sparring as long as the apps have been around. It’s almost as dramatic as a surprise televised breakup. Here’s the backstory, in all its he-said-she-said murkiness.
In 2012, Whitney Wolfe, who would go on to found Bumble, started at Tinder. According to a 2014 report from TechCrunch, Wolfe did marketing for the dating app in its early days, traveling to college campuses and recruiting new members.
She reportedly started dating Justin Mateen, one of Tinder’s co-founders, around the 2012 holiday season. “They were in love,” one source told TechCrunch. “Even early on, she was talking about wanting to end up with him.” The couple continued dating as Tinder’s popularity grew in 2013.
However, by early 2014, they had broken up and were not on good terms. TechCrunch notes that Wolfe had heated conversations with Mateen about personal issues in the office, and she claims that after they broke up he became “verbally controlling and abusive” toward her. In spring 2014, Wolfe and Mateen had a huge blowup at a company party in Malibu, a night recognized by Tinder employees as the night Wolfe quit the company. But she says she was pushed out.
In 2014, Wolfe sued Tinder co-founders Mateen and Sean Rad, alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. After her exit from Tinder, Wolfe filed a legal complaint, alleging that Mateen repeatedly called her a “whore” and that he and Rad subjected her to “a barrage of horrendously sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages.” The complaint also said Wolfe was stripped of her “co-founder” title because Mateen said that having a young female co-founder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” the company.
In September 2014, Wolfe’s lawsuit against Tinder was settled for more than $1 million, according to Forbes, “without admission of wrongdoing.” Mateen was suspended and then resigned. Sean Rad also was pushed out as chief executive.
Wolfe’s Bumble would be released in December 2014.
In 2017 Match Group, which owns Tinder, tried to buy Bumble. Match Group has quite the online-dating dynasty; it also owns PlentyOfFish, match.com, HowAboutWe and OkCupid. Last year, it made a play for Bumble, a $450 million buyout offer that Whitney Wolfe Herd (she married Michael Herd in 2017) turned down. According to Forbes, Match again approached Bumble in fall 2017, offering a valuation of more than $1 billion.
In March 2018, Match sued Bumble over patent infringement and misuse of intellectual property. Match’s lawsuit accuses Bumble of mimicking “Tinder’s functionality, trad[ing] off of Tinder’s name, brand, and general look and feel, meet[ing] user expectations that Tinder itself and its brand created.” The suit also claims that two former Tinder employees who now work for Bumble copied Tinder design elements and used them for the rival app, saying “Bumble has released at least two features that its co-founders learned of and developed confidentially while at Tinder in violation of confidentiality agreements.” This is beginning to feel like the Barbie-Bratz feud or a divorced couple fighting over property as they’re splitting up. This has always been mine! No, it’s mine!
Bumble sued Match, calling the company a bully. In a letter to the Match Group last month, Bumble leaned heavily on online dating lingo, saying: “We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now, to intimidate us. We’ll never be yours. No matter the price tag, we’ll never compromise our values.”
The attempt at imitation is a reference to a new Tinder feature that will require women to send the first message after a match — Bumble’s signature feature. In its letter, Bumble said the company looks “forward to telling their story in court.”
About a week after publishing the letter, Bumble sued Match Group in a Texas state court — not in response to Match’s lawsuit but as a separate suit, claiming that Match interfered with Bumble’s operations and seeking $400 million in damages. Bumble’s suit alleges that Match learned other companies were interested in buying or investing in Bumble, and therefore sued Bumble to make it less desirable. (Sort of like when you reject someone and they go around telling other people you’re bad in bed.)
Bumble’s suit also alleges that Match requested “confidential and trade secret information,” only to use that information against Bumble. In a statement to Forbes, Match called the lawsuit a “petulant and meritless response to our patent, trademark and trade secret claims.”