Update:This article was updated at 3:00pm to reflect statements from UrWork
WeWork, the New York City co-working network valued at US$20 billion, is suing its Chinese rival UrWork in the US, claiming copyright infringement, according to Bloomberg.
WeWork is claiming that the similar branding of UrWork would make it difficult for consumers to differentiate between the Chinese and American companies.
The lawsuit points to the fact that UrWork is essentially the same name expect flipping the personal pronoun ‘we’ with ‘you’. The complaint also says the logo and mobile application UI is similar.
In a statement to e27, UrWork said,
“优客工场 or URWork is an interpretation of co-working concept, with shared office facilities and professional service products at the center. Central to the trade mark is the “UR”, while “Work” is a common English word, ubiquitously seen in many commercial contexts. No institutions, enterprises or individuals hold proprietary right to the usage of the word, let alone regarding it as their own intellectual property. URWork trademark has distinguishingly different design than the WeWork trademark. There is no legal proof, or common sense for any claims from WeWork that URWork infringes upon its trademark.”
Also included in the lawsuit is an American company named Serendipity Labs — a co-working space that inked a deal with UrWork to open a large space in Lower Manhattan.
The deal with Serendipity Labs — which involved co-branding — is interesting because it would have been a significant step for UrWork, which almost entirely operates within China. According to Bloomberg, UrWork is said to be expanding to Singapore, London, Los Angeles and plans to open its first office in New York City soon. But, these have yet to come fruition.
The partnership with Serendipity would have put the UrWork brand on the doorstep of WeWork’s home territory (New York City).
As for WeWork, it is a global company with co-working spaces stretching across Asia, Europe and Latin America. It has already entered China with co-working spaces in Shanghai and Beijing. Recently, the company bought the Singaporean co-working company Spacemob to kickstart its presence in Southeast Asia.
A major part of the funding is to facilitate subsidies in an effort to grab market share in places like China before the competition can take hold.
In late August, WeWork raised a US$4.4 billion funding round led by Softbank that is said to value the company at US$20 billion. UrWork has raised a total of US$1.4 billion over its lifetime, most recently nabbing a US$30 million round from a Beijing-based health investment company.
WeWork seems prepared to take the lawsuit through the entire litigation process, demanding a trial jury to hear the case.