In terms of online Jewish dating, love is a battlefield.
That’s because JDate, the website that has been helping chosen people find their beshert since 1997, is suing newcomer app JSwipe for two allegations, using its patented technology without a license as well as infringing on its trademark, the letter “J.”
“If someone comes along and infringes on our trademark, creating confusion in the market, and steals our technology, we, like any business, must defend ourselves,” wrote Michael Egan, the CEO of JDate’s parent company, Spark Networks, which also owns other dating websites such as Christian Mingle and Black Singles, in an email to The Jewish Week.
According to its website, Spark Networks has a patent on any technology that has a “method and apparatus for detection of reciprocal interests of feelings and subsequent notification.” Meaning, the company essentially owns the technology that matches users confidentially and informs them of those with mutual interest.
Furthermore, the website lists a selection of Spark Networks’ registered trademarks, which includes “JBlog,” “JDate,” “JMag,” “JPicks,” and “JMom.” Notably absent from the online list is “JSwipe” or the letter “J” on its own.
Egan claims that Spark Networks sent a cease and desist notice to JSwipe in early 2014, which was ignored, before taking further legal action against the dating app.
According to court records, a complaint was first filed against JSwipe on November 12, 2014.
David Yarus, the founder of JSwipe, argues that though he understands his app, which launched during Passover of 2014, and JDate both service the Jewish community, no further similarities exist between the two entities.
“To us, the letter J stands for Jewish, as it does with hundreds of organizations across the world,” he said. “To us, it belongs to the Jewish community.”
While other Jewish dating apps that begin with the letter J exist, and technology that pairs people confidentially and informs them of matches is present in almost every dating website and app in existence, Spark Networks is currently only targeting Jswipe with legal action.
Egan explains that this is the case because, “When these types of issues pop up, we typically reach out to companies and attempt to work things out. Others have licensed technology that they are using from JDate.”
However, there is speculation that JDate’s motive behind this lawsuit is in fact a business venture.
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In July of 2014, the L.A. Times reported that Spark Networks had net losses totaling $29 million over the course of three years. This may be due to the rise of dating apps including JSwipe, who unlike JDate, do not require a subscription fee. During its first year in existence, JSwipe has attracted more than 375,000 users across the globe, making it one of the only Jewish dating services to rival JDate’s membership, which was at 750,000 in 2014 according to Jewish Business News.
Though it is unclear what may happen in the case between JDate and JSwipe, which is set to resume in August, one intellectual law professor who chose to not be mentioned by name because of an unfamiliarity with Spark Networks’ specific patent, believes that based on past patent law cases, JSwipe has the odds in its favor.
“The courts in recent years routinely reject as ‘abstract’ claims to methods of doing with computers what was once done by hand,” he said. “Unless there is some new technology involved, I’d be surprised if it’s valid.”
In the battle of the Js, he speculates that JSwipe will similarly come out on top.
“Given Ipods, Iphones…I cannot see how one can claim trade protection for the letter I, and were it possible, I'd have thought Apple would have done it," he said.