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China’s UrWork rejects lawsuit by US rival WeWork in battle of co-working firms

The two companies, biggest in their respective countries, are increasingly coming up against each other as they look to expand internationally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 6:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 10:47pm

UrWork, one of China’s biggest providers of co-working space, has rejected a lawsuit filed by US rival WeWork alleging trademark infringement in the US and UK markets, as the rivalry between the two dominant players in their home markets increases in their bids to expand globally.

On Tuesday, WeWork filed a lawsuit in New York against UrWork and its US partner Serendipity Labs, seeking to prevent the Chinese company from using or registering its name as a trademark in the US.

In the suit, WeWork argued that UrWork’s name is “deceptively similar” to its own and that the company had copied the design of WeWork’s logo and icon on its mobile app. The suit followed a similar action taken by WeWork earlier this year in London.

In response, UrWork said in a statement on Wednesday on its official WeChat account that there was “no legal proof or common sense” behind the claims from WeWork that UrWork was infringing on its trademark.

“Central to the trade mark is ‘UR’, while ‘work’ is a common English word, ubiquitously seen in many commercial contexts,” the statement said. “No institutions, enterprises or individuals hold proprietary right to the usage of the word, let alone regarding it as their own intellectual property.”

Both WeWork and UrWork have accelerated their expansion into international markets. UrWork opened its first US site in Los Angeles earlier this month and hopes to launch in New York and London next year. In June, it opened an office in Singapore.

WeWork has also stepped up its efforts to extend its reach in China, where the shared office space concept is gaining popularity among young entrepreneurs and among consumers embracing a sharing lifestyle. In July, WeWork launched a Chinese unit to expand beyond the current offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

UrWork, founded by Mao Daqing in 2015 and backed by Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial and by Sequoia Capital, was valued at more than 8 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) in its latest fundraising round, making it China’s first unicorn – a start-up company with a value of over US$1 billion – in the shared work space sector.

WeWork, the world’s fifth most-valuable start-up, had a most recent valuation of US$20 billion.