Chinese tech giant Baidu has filed a RMB 5 million (around $735,000) lawsuit against Bytedance and the operator of professional networking platform Maimai for defamation and copyright infringement.
Baidu filed the suit over a Maimai ad that appeared on Bytedance’s content aggregator Jinri Toutiao, according to the Haidian District People’s Court (in Chinese). Baidu says the ad contains a play on words alluding to Baidu’s slogan.
The search giant claims that the ad, first spotted in August, used Baidu’s office building as a backdrop for the text: “I heard my company’s culture has changed from simple and reliable [jian dan ke yi lai, 简单可依赖] to simple and shameless [jian dan ke yi lai, 简单可以赖],” changing one character to play on the company’s slogan.
The ad appeared to guide prospective new users to a Maimai user registration page, which included a download link to the Maimai app.
In China’s cutthroat online content and advertising industry, such a legal battle forms part of the intensified competition in the sector. Bytedance, now the world’s most valuable startup, is locked in a fierce rivalry with Baidu as well as social media giant Tencent. Maimai is known as being Linkedin’s biggest rival in China and is the country’s first professional networking unicorn. Baidu’s filing against Bytedance marks the latest in a series of spats between the two companies.
Baidu has accused Taou.com, Maimai’s operator, of defaming its reputation by promoting the ad. The search giant also said Jinri Toutiao should be held accountable for allowing ads on its platform that contain infringing content.
Baidu demands that the companies cease the infringement, pay RMB 5 million in compensation for the company’s losses, and apologize.
A Bytedance representative said the company could not comment on the matter as the case is ongoing.
This is hardly the first time Bytedance and Baidu have taken their feud to court. Last May, Bytedance accused Baidu of streaming of a talk show produced by Jinri Toutiao and its streaming app Watermelon Video. In June, Bytedance filed another RMB 10 million lawsuit against Baidu for unfair competition. Shortly after, Baidu sued a former high-level researcher for breaching non-disclosure and non-compete agreements after joining Bytedance.