The Delhi high court dismissed Bengaluru-based social media platform ShareChat’s lawsuit against ByteDance on May 17, where the former accused the Chinese company of copying its design, infringing its copyright and creating unfair competition.
This development comes after ShareChat had dragged ByteDance to court last year alleging copyright infringement. It had filed a complaint against ByteDance alleging ‘adwords ambushing’.
While hearing the case in October 2018, the high court had barred ByteDance from placing bids on ‘ShareChat’ as a keyword on Google’s AdWords platform, which ShareChat had alleged that the Chinese app had used to get a higher ranking by playing on its search words.
Complying with the court rule, in November 2018, ByteDance had changed the design of its Indian language content app, Helo, and also tweaked its description on Google Play Store to ‘Share, Follow & Chat’.
“We welcome the order passed by the High Court of Delhi, which has been delivered without going into the merits of the case or any admission on the part of Helo to any wrongdoing, with the consent of the parties involved,” said Helo spokesperson in response to Inc42’s query.
ShareChat has been having a hard time growing as Chinese media giant ByteDance brought its product Helo to India as well as short video app Tiktok, which has gained immense popularity on social media.
ShareChat was founded in 2015 by IIT-Kanpur alumni, Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh and Ankush Sachdeva. It allows users to create, discover, and share content with each other. It also has features like anonymous chat, direct messaging, original video content under the banner of ShareChat Talkies.
Accessible in 14 regional languages, ShareChat’s strength has been its popularity in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. A report by App Annie showed that ShareChat’s daily active users stayed at 5 Mn for the last quarter of 2018.
Recently it was also reported that ShareChat is in initial talks to raise $200 Mn at a valuation of $600 Mn – $700 Mn in the round. It is looking for strategic investors with social media expertise. This may or may not include China’s Tencent, which has been a leading investor in companies like WeChat and other such platforms.
Troublesome Ground For Chinese Social Media Apps In India
ByteDance-owned video sharing platform TikTok faced severe criticisms in India. In February, advocate S. Muthukumar filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Madras High Court accusing TikTok of spreading pornography, violence and unlawful content.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had passed an interim order on April 3, directing the centre to ban the app downloads. Following this ruling, the Supreme Court denied a stay on the ban. The app was eventually taken down from the Google and Apple app stores for about two weeks.
On April 24, the Madras High Court lifted the ban on TikTok after hearing the arguments of its amicus curiae Arvind Datar.
Meanwhile, in the same month, it was reported that workers from Delhi BJP’s social media cell were planning to ask the Elections Commission to ban Helo in India alleging China’s interference in Indian elections.
The Chinese social media players came under strict scrutiny following the Pulawama terror attack when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) economic wing, Swadeshi Jagran Manch had written to prime minister Narendra Modi requesting a ban on Chinese social media apps, ecommerce companies and telecom equipment from operating in India.