There is no love lost between the companies who created the dating apps Tinder and Bumble. The first and larger of the two, Tinder and its parent company Match have tried to buy Bumble twice and have been rebuffed. Bumble, for its part, was started by an early Tinder employee who dated a founder and CEO, but left after accusing him of sexual harassment in the workplace. The case was subsequently settled out of court.
The two dating apps work in a similar manner, particularly in the earlier versions. According to NPR, Tinder has alleged a wide variety of infringements, most notably providing a matchmaking service on the internet and using a swiping motion in its app. The apps match people based on similar interests, which is then approved or dismissed with a swiping motion. Tinder owns a patent on the swiping motion, but Bumble argues that it should not be so, asserting that patents do not cover abstract ideas like the relatively common acts of swiping and matchmaking. The dispute is still pending.
Software patents in the Alice era
The Supreme Court ruled four years ago on the case Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, also known as the Alice decision. This ruling held that software designers could not just tie an abstract idea to the Internet or a computer (such as dating or meal planning) and then patent it. This cuts down on overly broad patents and allows for more competition in the technology fields.
Defining abstract ideas
Patent law involving technology and abstract ideas is quickly evolving and will continue to do so as the courts try to balance innovation with competition. Abstract is a hard term to define, and even using the “know it when you see it” measurement will not always work. It is often best to discuss these issues with an intellectual property attorney as early in the development process as possible. This may avoid a quarrel similar to that of Tinder and Bumble. It can also reaffirm that the idea is worth pursuing and protecting.