Baidu and Bytedance continue legal spat with fresh round of lawsuits

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(Image credit: TechNode/Cassidy McDonald)

Tech giants Baidu and Bytedance on Friday filed lawsuits against each other for unfair competition, with both companies seeking RMB 90 million (around $13 million) in damages and extended public apologies.

The companies filed their respective lawsuits at the Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing. They each also seek 30-day apologies posted to their competitor’s website and app.

Baidu alleges that Bytedance stole a number of its TOP1 search results, a feature that displays relevant information from a Baidu search query without having to click through to get information. For example, if a user searches for the weather forecast, a graphic displaying conditions will be displayed as the first result on a search page.

Baidu said it used anti-counterfeiting measures including watermarking and inserting code into its TOP1 results, which enabled the company to track their usage. The search giant said the allegedly stolen results were used in content aggregator Jinri Toutiao’s newly launched search engine function. “This kind of behavior is a blatant theft of [Baidu’s] technology,” the company said in a statement.

Bytedance told TechNode the company is actively responding to the lawsuit.

Hours after Baidu, Bytedance filed a lawsuit against Baidu for “stealing” videos from its short video app Douyin, media outlet PEdaily reported.

Bytedance found that a lite search app from Baidu named “Jiandan Sousuo,” or “Simple Search” includes a tab for popular videos on Douyin. The Douyin owner added that Baidu erased the watermark on Douyin’s videos to make the “stealing” less conspicuous.

Baidu declined to comment when reached by TechNode.

In its filing, Bytedance stated that Baidu’s search app has “maliciously robbed” Douyin of its rightful users and traffic, which significantly damages Douyin’s operating results. Bytedance also condemned Baidu for increasing the competitive advantage of Simple Search at the expense of Douyin’s growth, calling the gains “unearned” and accusing Baidu of unfair competition.

Launched in July 2017, Simple Search is a search app that looks similar to Baidu.com and is available on iOS and Android. The app promises to never include ads.

Both companies have taken an increasingly litigious stance toward one another. In January, Baidu sued Bytedance, along with professional networking platform Maimai, for RMB 5 million over allegations of defamation and copyright infringement. Two months later, Bytedance vice president Li Liang won a defamation suit against Baidu, in which he said the company posted slanderous material about him on its website and app.

Additional reporting by Tony Xu.