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Sonoma software company claims Tinder ripped off its name

A Sonoma software company is seeking a financial hookup to help fight the makers of a wildly popular dating app they say stole its name.

WildFireWeb, which develops content management software for schools and small businesses under the product name Tinder, has sued the matchmaking giant, Tinder Inc., over trademark infringement.

The Sonoma company's co-founder, Blaine Transue, announced Friday he's launched a crowdfunding initiative to pay for legal fees against Tinder, which was founded in 2012 and is now estimated to be worth $1.3 billion.

By comparison, 10-year-old WildFireWeb generates less than $500,000 a year in sales and has three employees including Transue and his partner, Steve Sweet.

'It's a challenge for a small company to do something like this,' said Transue, who is president and chief executive officer. 'It's going to take some support. Some help from our friends. We're hoping we can make some new friends.'

But Transue said it's a battle worth fighting. His company started using the Tinder name back in 2007 in a nod to its fire-based theme and obtained a registered trademark in 2011.

Founders of the dating app, which allows mutually interested users to chat, launched Tinder a year later and received their own trademark in 2014, according to the lawsuit.

The situation has led to unwanted confusion about whether the Sonoma software firm, whose customers include Sonoma Valley Unified School District, is connected to the popular dating application with a reputation for facilitating casual hook-ups.

'Our image and reputations are not compatible,' Transue said. 'If there's an adverse reaction it hurts us.'

Tinder did not respond to an email request Friday seeking comment. Lawyers for the Los Angeles-based firm also did not respond Friday.

Tinder is a smartphone dating application that allows users to search for romance by swiping through photos of other people enrolled with Tinder. Users swipe right if they want to connect with a prospective date and swipe left if they want to pass. A match is created if the same person swipes back.

The company's website claims 1.6 billion swipes per day leading to 26 million daily matches. Overall, the application has led to 9 billion matches spanning 196 countries.

'The people we meet change our lives,' the website said. 'A friend, a date, a romance, or even a chance encounter can change someone's life forever.'

Tinder's parent company, Match Group Inc., also owns popular dating services Match.com and OKCupid. The company, which is owned by IAC/Interactive, filed plans last week to raise up to $100 million in an initial public stock offering.

WildFireWeb's lawsuit claims Tinder Inc. is not only borrowing its name but has adopted a similar logo that uses all lower case letters with flame colors.

Sweet, whose company filed the suit in federal court in Los Angeles in February, said legal fees are expected to exceed $200,000. After 11 days on the crowd-funding site, Indiegogo, the cause had raised just under $7,000.

'This is an expensive venture,' said Sweet, who is vice president and chief technology officer. 'We're a tiny little company compared to them.'

You can view the company's Indiegogo page by clicking here.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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