Match Group, the online dating company that owns services like Tinder and Match.com, wants to buy Bumble, another popular dating app that lets women make the first move.
But Match may be trying to push the deal along in an unconventional way: A new patent infringement lawsuit filed late Friday in U.S. District court in Waco, Texas.
Match Group is suing Bumble, which was founded by one of Tinder’s co-founders, for infringing on two of its patents, including a design patent for Tinder’s now-famous swipe-to-connect feature, according to the suit.
Match also claims that early Bumble executives Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick, who both previously worked at Tinder, stole “confidential information related to proposed Tinder features,” including the idea for a feature that lets users go back if they accidentally skip someone, according to the suit.
A Match Group spokesperson sent Recode the following statement.
Match Group has invested significant resources and creative expertise in the development of our industry-leading suite of products. We are committed to protecting the intellectual property and proprietary data that defines our business. Accordingly, we are prepared when necessary to enforce our patents and other intellectual property rights against any operator in the dating space who infringes upon those rights.
Representatives from Bumble could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tech companies file patent infringement lawsuits all the time — BlackBerry just sued Facebook for patent infringement last week.
But Match, Tinder and Bumble have a long and interesting history.
Most recently, Match made an offer to buy Bumble last summer for $450 million, according to TechCrunch. One source tells Recode that Match is still interested in acquiring Bumble, which means this lawsuit may very well be a bargaining chip — albeit an unfriendly one. The easiest way to make it a patent infringement suit go away would be to join the company that owns the patent.
Some complicated early history: Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd was also a co-founder at Tinder before she filed her own lawsuit against Tinder for alleged sexual harassment in 2014. Herd also claimed in the suit that she was stripped of her co-founder title because Tinder’s then-CMO Justin Mateen told her “having a young female co-founder ‘makes the company seem like a joke.’”
She ultimately settled the suit for “approximately $1 million,” according to Forbes.
Since its founding in late 2014, Bumble has established itself as a serious player in the world of online dating. The service uses a similar swipe-to-match feature as Tinder, but requires women to send the first message. Bumble has more than 22 million users and was on pace for more than $100 million in revenue in 2017, according to Forbes.
Badoo, another dating service owned by Russian entrepreneur Andrey Andreev, is Bumble’s majority owner, with a 79 percent stake. CNBC reported in January that Badoo had hired JP Morgan to help it find a potential buyer for the whole company. Presumably, Badoo and its other dating services would be included in any deal for Bumble.