Date
15 December 2017
Houzify has an extensive presence on social media including Twitter. It has been removed from Facebook after being accused by a rival of trademark violations. Photo: Houzify
Houzify has an extensive presence on social media including Twitter. It has been removed from Facebook after being accused by a rival of trademark violations. Photo: Houzify

Facebook kicks out Indian startup after rival’s protest

Facebook has pulled the plug on an Indian home decor startup after a rival accused it of trademark infringements.

Houzify was kicked out by the social network after Sequoia Capital-backed rival Houzz Inc. complained of trademark violations, Bloomberg reports, citing the one-year-old platform backed by leading Indian technology companies.

A copyright dispute between the interior design sites burst into the open after Houzify — backed by Naveen Tewari, founder of Indian mobile ads platform InMobi Pte. — said Facebook had wiped its presence without warning.

As of Wednesday, the link to its page had been replaced with an error message saying it was broken or had been removed.

Startup founders have since expressed concern over Houzify’s assertion that Facebook acted unilaterally.

The social network had already riled internet companies in India earlier with its Free Basics service, which offered access to a limited swathe of pared-down internet websites to users.

Startups protested that such a plan would disadvantage smaller services.

A spokesman for Facebook in India said the company was still investigating and had no further comment.

Houzify and Houzz both link home-owners with interior designers and suppliers, though the U.S. startup founded in 2009 has 35 million users to Houzify’s 120,000.

Palo Alto-based service backed by Sequoia, DST Global and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC asked Houzify in December to cancel its domain and re-brand a site it called “confusingly similar to the famous Houzz mark”, according to a legal notice from Houzz provided by the Indian company.

“We are committed to protecting our valuable brand and community from copycats through any available means, including identifying violations of third-party platform policies or when necessary taking legal action,” Gabriela Hebert, a spokeswoman for Houzz, said in an e-mailed statement.

She didn’t respond to questions about whether the company had taken its complaint to Facebook.

Houzify, which also counts former Infosys Ltd. executive Mohandas Pai as an investor, resisted those demands.

It argued the words “house” and “-ify” were generic and saw no reason to comply.

Instead, it offered to carry a temporary disclaimer and alter the font on its logo to settle the issue.

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