The rivalry between Wework, the US co-working company valued at $20 billion, and Urwork, its Beijing-based competitor with a value of more than $1 billion, may be moving from the work space to a courtroom.
WeWork filed a lawsuit in New York against UrWork for trademark infringement in a federal court on Tuesday. It accused the rival of infringing on its trademarks, saying it copied parts of its name and logo. WeWork also demanded that the company stop a planned launch in Manhattan’s Financial District later this year, where WeWork dominates the co-working space market.
Competition between the two co-working companies, the biggest in their respective countries, has accelerated in their expansion into international markets.
Founded in 2015, UrWork is backed by Sequoia Capital China and Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial, and was recently valued at $1.3 billion after a merger with its domestic rival, New Space.
WeWork, reported to be the world’s fifth most-valuable startup, said it has more than 200 current or planned locations in 53 cities worldwide.
“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,” a company spokesman said in an email statement to China Daily. “UrWork has no physical presence and no brand equity in the United States, so there is no reason for them to enter our home market with such a confusingly similar name.”
“We will use all legal options available to us to defend our company name so as to avoid confusion for our current and future members,” the statement said.
The company and its US partner, Serendipity Labs Inc, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but on its official WeChat account on Wednesday it rejected the lawsuit and said that there was “no legal proof or common sense” to WeWork’s charges.
UrWork plans to open its first US location in New York and a second location in Los Angeles later this year, where WeWork has 42 and 12 current or planned locations respectively.
The two-year-old UrWork startup has raised $236 million in the past few months to help finance establishing 160 locations in 32 cities worldwide over the coming three years, including in Singapore, New York, Los Angeles, London and Taiwan.
WeWork is also well-funded for expansion. It just received a $4.4 billion investment from SoftBank Group Corp and its Vision Fund, putting its valuation at what’s said to be a $20 billion, and it announced a separate $500 million investment from SoftBank and Hony Capital to expand in China, where its UrWork has about 78 offices.