A default judgment has been made against dating app Tinder at the Munich District Court. It was awarded after the defendants did not attend court proceedings for an infringement hearing put forward by Hoccer. MTCH, which operates Tinder, is requesting a stay of enforcement against the decision.
18 June 2019 by Amy Sandys
In January 2019, an infringement case was filed by communication service Hoccer for the German part of European patent EP 2 45 4894. There are four defendants in the case, including three US entities and one European entitity. The case was split into two corresponding processes.
The Munich District Court temporarily dismissed proceedings against the three US operations, Match Group LLC, Match Group Inc and Tinder. The fourth European proceedings were scheduled for May 2019. All four defendants operate under the Tinder brand.
Berlin-based company Hoccer develops messengers for ad-hoc communication on mobile devices. This includes its Hoccer app, which since 2009 has enabled encrypted data exchange between users.
Tinder is a location-based, app-driven dating site which allows users to swipe through other user profiles in order to find a match.
Despite being based in Ireland, the European entity of MTCH has no regional office. As a result, Irish law firm Arthur Cox is accountable for the company’s secretarial and company services in Ireland. The defendant claims that the complaint served by Hoccer, dated 19 March 2019, was received by Arthur Cox but not forwarded to MTCH until late May.
Therefore, no representative of Tinder was present at the oral hearing in Munich in May; the District Court Munich passed a default judgment on 6 June. The judgment includes an injunction stating that, until further notice, Germany is no longer a viable location for the Tinder app and must cease offering its core services in the country.
However the default judgment does not affect the US entities, which control the Tinder app in Germany. Tinder should therefore still be available to users.
The Munich court should receive a request for stay of enforcement against the judgment this week with the parties knowing the outcome by next week. The scheduled oral hearing against the US entities will take place on 21 November. There will be another oral hearing in 2020.
It is currently being assessed whether the complaints and summons were properly served to MTCH. The judge must also assess the infringement and validity aspects of the case.
If the November proceedings find the patent valid and infringed by MTCH, the company will not have to reimburse users of Tinder. The Match Group will only negotiate a licence with Hoccer if the patent is found valid by the Federal Patent Court in the parallel nullity action.
Hoccer has a long-standing relationship with attorney (litigator) Alexander Reetz, who represented the client in this case. Reetz brought Hoccer over to Wildanger in January 2019, when he became the firm’s eighth partner, and filed the complaint against Tinder under the Wildanger name.
From 2008 to 2019, Reetz was a patent attorney at Hogan Lovells in Düsseldorf, finally working as counsel. Reetz has particular expertise in litigating in mobile telecommunication processes.
Wildanger collaborated with German patent attorney firm Maikowski and Ninneman in the case against Tinder. Reetz worked with patent attorney Felix Gross, a partner at the firm’s Berlin office.
Thomas Gniadek, partner at the Munich office of Noerr, is a new addition to the proceedings. Following the discrepancy between Arthur Cox and Tinder, at the end of May 2019 Gniadek won the pitch to act as general counsel for the US and Irish entities.
During the case, Gniadek worked in conjunction with patent attorney firm Hoffmann Eitle and two in-house counsel for MTCH.
Other clients of Gniadek include Formlabs, Popsockets, Clariant and Streetscooter.
Wildanger (Düsseldorf): Alexander Reetz (lead), Alexander Wiese
Maikowski & Ninneman: Felix Gross (patent attorney)
In-house: Jérôme Glozbach de Cabarrus
Noerr: Thomas Gniadek (lead counsel); Armin Kühne, Valentin Schmidt
Hoffmann Eitle: Thomas Becher, Dominik Scheible (patent attorneys)
In-house: No information
District Court of Munich
Matthias Zigann (presiding judge)