Dating app Bumble sues rival Match Group

(Reuters) - Dating app Bumble Trading Inc on Wednesday filed a U.S. lawsuit accusing rival Match Group Inc of fraud and trade secrets theft, escalating a court fight that broke out after failed buyout talks.

The dating app Tinder is shown on an Apple iPhone in this photo illustration taken February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration/File Photo

Bumble said it was seeking $400 million from Match, which owns popular dating app Tinder, because it obtained sensitive competitive information through deceptive means and has wrongfully disparaged its competitor in the investment market.

The lawsuit, filed in a Texas state court, comes two weeks after Match brought a lawsuit against Bumble alleging intellectual property infringement.

“This lawsuit is a petulant and meritless response to our patent, trademark and trade secret claims,” Match said in a statement. “We obviously think their lawsuit has no substance and look forward to proving that in court.”

Whitney Wolfe Herd, a co-founder of Tinder, left that company and co-founded Austin, Texas-based Bumble in 2014.

Wolfe Herd sued Tinder that year, alleging her co-founders at that company subjected her to sexual harassment. Tinder parent Match, which denied the allegations, paid about $1 million to settle the dispute.

Both Tinder and Bumble allow users to swipe right or left to signal their interest or lack of it in meeting prospective partners.

Unlike Tinder, conversations on Bumble between heterosexual matches can only be initiated by women.

Dallas based Match made a $450 million offer to acquire Bumble in 2017, according to the lawsuit. Bumble said it turned down the offer, considering it to be a lowball bid.

Negotiations stalled and Match sued Bumble on March 16, alleging patent and trademark infringement, as well as trade secrets misappropriation.

Match said Bumble has sought to mimic Tinder’s functionality “and build a business entirely on a Tinder-clone, distinguished only by Bumble’s women-talk-first marketing strategy.”

Bumble said in Wednesday’s lawsuit that Match’s legal action was a baseless attempt to harm Bumble by scaring away potential investors.

Bumble also said that during the acquisition talks Match induced the production of confidential information solely for “the financial benefit of its dating app businesses.”

Match also owns the dating services OkCupid and Meetic.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; editing by Susan Thomas and Bill Trott