By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) – WeWork Cos filed a lawsuit against Chinese company UrWork for trademark infringement in a federal court on Tuesday and demanded the firm stop a planned launch in Manhattan where the New York-based shared workspace company dominates the market.
WeWork said in court papers filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that a confusingly similar brand would deceive potential customers into believing UrWork’s services are affiliated or sponsored by WeWork.
The complaint was also filed against Serendipity Labs Inc., a shared workplace provider based in Rye, New York that announced in July a partnership with UrWork to open a 34,000 square foot co-branded location in Lower Manhattan.
Serendipity had no immediate comment. UrWork could not be immediately reached for comment.
In July, Serendipity said in a joint statement with UrWork(Beijing) Venture Investment Co. Ltd., as the company is formally known, that the deal would give its members immediate access to 78 locations in China.
WeWork said it has 165 locations in 53 cities worldwide, including more than 20 major U.S. cities. WeWork operates 38 locations in New York City, including five in the Financial District where the UrWork-Serendipity Labs venture is set to launch in November.
WeWork, which has demanded a trial jury, said it has achieved significant recognition in the minds of coworking consumers through its “WeWork” trademark.
“WeWork has invested substantial time and money building a superior brand to ensure that our brand name is uniquely associated with WeWork and its offerings,” said company spokesman Dominic McMullan.
The complaint said the name UrWork shares the defining characteristics of WeWork’s trademark – a two-syllable word beginning with a two-letter pronoun joined with the word “Work.”
Founder Mao Daqing has acknowledged the UrWork name is a play on WeWork, the complaint said. But in China, UrWork employs Chinese characters that have a different look, sound and meaning, the complaint said.
UrWork also copied the design of WeWork’s logo and the icon on its mobile app, WeWork said in the complaint.
WeWork said it owns numerous U.S. trademark registrations for WeWork and extensive common law rights.
In 2016, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declared WeWork’s trademark for leasing and renting office space “incontestable,” the complaint said.
UrWork has said it is valued at $1.4 billion after fundraising from Sequoia Capital, Zhen Fund and others. The firm said it has joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and London underway and a location in Singapore.
UrWork plans to open in Los Angeles in the fourth quarter of 2017 and at an unspecified date in San Francisco, WeWork said.
The case is WeWork Cos v UrWork (Beijing) Venture Investment Co et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-06913.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; editing by Diane Craft)