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Is Renren Behind a Kaixin-Badged Group Buy Clone?

The long drawn-out battle between Renren (NYSE:RENN) and Kaixin over the “Kaixin” brand-name looks like it might have moved to the highly-competitive world of Chinese group buy sites.

Kaixin’s daily deals site – news of which we covered yesterday, as it opened the platform to partners – has a clone called KaixinTuan. Compare the official Kaixin deals site here, with the counterfeit one here.

For the background history, we need to think of “Kaixin” the social network as Kaixin001, which is the URL it owns. Renren – backed by Oak Pacific Interactive – actually owns the Kaixin.com URL, even though it lost the acrimonious lawsuit between the two firms when the former was adjudged to have copied the essence of Kaixin001’s name. Renren’s Kaixin.com site later merged with the main social network, and the URL was decommissioned, but its ownership was retained.

Although that battle is over, the war seems to be ongoing – but now in the deals industry. What’s significant with this development is that the group buy clone’s logo looks a lot like Renren’s visualization of the “Kaixin” brand, as it appears when you type kaixin.com in your browser and you get redirected to renren.com, with an explanatory banner saying the two sites have merged and that your login now works on Renren. See how the two dots form eyes, and a smile suspends beneath the two “i”s:

This could suggest that Renren is actually behind the clone deals site. Of course, it could also mean that the cloner – the shape-shifters that they are – nabbed the design from Renren’s banner because they thought it’d be too risky to steal it from the actual Kaixin site. It’s not clear who owns the kaixintuan.com URL, or whose name is on its mandatory Chinese website license. There are no other clues on the clone site that link it directly to Renren.

In terms of daily deals, Renren has its own challenger in the form of Nuomi, in which it has invested millions of dollars, and holds a major stake. By all recent measures, Nuomi is doing better than Kaixin’s official offering in the fragmented deals market in China.

Penn-Olson reached out to Kaixin for comment, who couldn’t be drawn for a direct quote. But the firm’s response is a phlegmatic one, saying that if the clone provides a good experience, then it reinforces the Kaixin[001] brand, and that users will figure it all out in the end. We’ll update if we hear back from Renren. UPDATE: A Renren representative suggests only that “I think they were inspired by our logo.”

On the wider clone issue, there are – like after some idiot sneezes all over everyone in an elevator – viral outbursts all over the place, such as kxtuan.com, or renrenzhe.com. But only the one identified above has the whiff and suspicion of Renren backing.

In the meantime, hit the comments to tell us if you think this smacks of skullduggery, sabotage, or mere serendipity.

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