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Russian startup Surfingbird, which was just recently named as a Start Fellow and is backed by famous Russian investor Yuri Milner and Vkontakte-founder Pavel Durov, has been accused of patent infringement by popular American recommendation-service StumbleUpon. As result of the alleged infringement, StumbleUpon seeks to have Surfingbird’s app removed from the Apple AppStore. This news comes from StartupAfisha, who also posted a response from Surfingbird’s founder, Sergei Shalaev. Shalaev took to his Facebook page to respond to the accusations and, unsurprisingly, disputed the claim, saying that this was not the first time that his site has encountered such a problem with a large Western company and that they have managed to overcome previous obstacles.
That companies have patent disputes is an unpleasant aspect of the startup world, but nevertheless a reality. Startups fiercely compete against one another in building their brands and sometimes services overlap. I find it interesting, though that Shalaev has opted to frame this dispute in national terms. Rather than merely arguing that this is an unwarranted accusation by another company, he writes that this is an attack in undeclared war by an American service. Regardless, it’s always unpleasant to see developments like this. Whether it’s Apple and Samsung, in their recent struggle, or StumbleUpon and Surfingbird, it’s the end-user who ultimately ends up being the real loser.
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