On October 25, 2016 the company behind Snapchat, which recently changed its name to Snap Inc., was hit with a trademark lawsuit in New York federal court by another social media company named Snap Interactive. Snapchat recently announced that it would now be known as Snap Inc. in are branding meant to send the message that the company was “bigger than one app.” Snap Interactive claims that the social networking app’s use of the “same or virtually same” company name in the same industry will lead to confusion, deceiving users and possibly investors.
Defendant’s newly adopted Snap Inc. trade name incorporates plaintiff’s Snap name in its entirety, is shortened to Snap alone in press coverage and other public references to the company, and is confusingly similar to plaintiff’s Snap name and marks. Further, defendant is using the infringing trade name in connection with social networking services that overlap with and/or are closely related to plaintiff’s services.
The plaintiff says it recently merged with Paltalk, a live chat service company, and has been using its name since 2008 with a trademark registration for “online social networking services.” But Snap Interactive, which develops and operates dating apps for social networking sites and mobile platforms, has used the name “Snap” as early as 2008, the complaint says. Its offerings include First Met, once called Are You Interested?, that has roughly one million visitors each month. According to the complaint, “Defendant’s use of SNAP INC. as a trade name will lead consumers of Defendant’s products and services to believe, mistakenly, that Defendant’s company is part of a joint venture between Plaintiff and Defendant, that Defendant’s company is related to or is the same company as Plaintiff, or that Defendant’s goods and services offered under the SNAP INC. name come from or are approved or authorized by Plaintiff. This marketplace confusion is particularly likely given defendant’s widely publicized news that it changed its company name because it intends to expand its portfolio of products and services. This risk to plaintiff’s reputation has the potential to be particularly damaging now, in light of plaintiff’s recent high-profile merger with Paltalk and its reputation is crucial to the success of that ongoing venture.
The complaint, filed on behalf of the company makes clear that the plaintiff is not looking to prevent Snapchat from being “Snapchat,” but the demanded injunction fairly expansively targets description of products, use of URLs and other activity. Snap Interactive also is looking for damages on its claims of unfair competition and trademark infringement.
Keywords: Unfair competition, trademark infringement, Snapchat, confusion.