New York-based Groupie LLC, “makers of the popular Groupie group messaging app” which we’ve never heard of but says it serves a million in-app messages a day to 60,000 users and growing, has formally challenged the trademark application filed by high-profile local group messengers GroupMe.
This is actually not the first time GroupMe has run into trademark trouble; back in February, GroupMe employees named a Github repository after their hero, singer/songwriter John Mayer, whose lawyers promptly repaid the compliment with a cease-and-desist letter. (GroupMe desisted, renaming the library after Mayor Quimby of the Simpsons, which to the best of our knowledge has gone unchallenged by Fox.)
Groupie was trademarked as “computer application software for mobile phones” in May 2009, co-founder Jordan Adler said, after he and co-founder Leo Efstathiou submitted a business plan for the group messaging service in the NYU Business Plan Competition. The company has bootstrapped its way up and is looking for funding in the next few months, he said.
He first became worried that users would confuse his service with GroupMe, which offers a similar service, about six months ago when GroupMe was starting to get really hot (and hired a PR team). But the period where another company can challenge a trademark application just opened in June. Groupie filed for a one-month extension and then hit with its challenge in early July.
“Our users started to say they recommended Groupie and another user would say, ‘GroupMe?’ with a question mark,” Mr. Adler said.
Groupie and GroupMe both offer group messaging, however Groupie only works between users who have the app and GroupMe offers SMS-based group messaging. Groupie is also more focused on group discovery within the “Groupieverse,” while GroupMe emphasizes messaging with friends and family.
Would Groupie consider changing its name if its challenge is overruled? we asked. Probably not, Mr. Adler said. “We’ve invested so much of our time and money in building it up.”
GroupMe had no comment. The start-up has until August 15 to respond to the challenge, after which it will go into review with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Given GroupMe’s bad luck with intellectual property infringements, we’re taking bets on what the next threat will be. Copyright challenge from the Disco Biscuits over the name of their parent company, Mindless Dribble Inc.? Libel suit from David Tisch? A criminal investigation over the pilfering of the Pivotal Squirrel?