Indian social app ShareChat takes ByteDance to court over shady marketing tactics and copyright issues

2 min read

ShareChat (top) vs. ByteDance’s Helo (bottom)

The Delhi High Court has ordered ByteDance, the operator of Jinri Toutiao, to refrain from using “ShareChat” as a Google AdWord keyword, according to the Economic Times report. Last Friday, the Bengaluru-based social and content app ShareChat filed a complaint against ByteDance for allegedly using what it called “AdWords ambushing” tactics. The company said when a user searched for its app on Google, Bytedance’s Helo app popped up as one of the top search results. AdWords is Google’s paid advertising service that advertisers can pay for relevant keywords to match their ads with the terms people search for. Digital advertising on platforms like Google and Facebook has been one of the main focus for ByteDance in India.

Consequently, the court demanded Google to deactivate Bytedance’s use of “ShareChat” or any “identical or deceptively similar mark” on the AdWords platform within 48 hours.

Aside from accusing ByteDance of its shady marketing tactics, ShareChat also said Helo had copied the features, look and feel of its app, as well as icon designs. ShareChat also accused Bytedance of copying and misusing comments and posts by its users, and wrongly attributing them to “fictitious people” on the Helo app.

Bytedance did not provide a comment before the time of publication.

It is worth noting that ShareChat, one of Bytedance’s bigger rivals in India, is one of the 10 startups that Xiaomi has invested in India. The Chinese smartphone maker has been pouring investment into India, hoping to build its presence in the local internet sector—which may have created more barriers for Bytedance to expand in the country. It recently raised around $100 million at a valuation of close to $460 million. The company claims to have a user base of over 50 million.

ByteDance launched the social networking app Helo in July, which racked up more than 1 million downloads in the first month of launching and was coming on strong against existing players, including ShareChat, Dailyhunt (an aggregation app), as well as Facebook. Launching its own operations in India was considered quite ambitious since most Chinese tech companies have chosen to only invest.

The company’s plan for global domination is no secret.

Earlier this year, CEO of Bytedance Zhang Yiming said “globalization” is the company’s goal for 2018 and that the company expects to have more than half of its users from overseas by 2020. Just a few days ago, ByteDance overtook Uber as the world’s highest-valued tech startup,