The developers of Quibi now in the middle of a legal battle on the cusp of the app’s launch. Supposedly their signature “Turnstyle” technology is based on a patent from media company Eko — or at least that’s the basis of the latter’s infringement lawsuit.
One of Quibi‘s claims to fame is that its shortform videos can be viewed differently depending on whether your phone is oriented vertically or horizontally. It’s not much of a distinction, in my humble opinion, but it’s something. Eko, on the other hand, claims this technology as its own — the company makes interactive video ads for clients such as Coca-Cola. It says this switching tech was stolen by Quibi employees when they were still working for Snap Inc, which at one point was flirting with a partnership with Eko.
In its defense, Quibi says this Turnstyle tech was developed internally, and earlier this week it filed a preemptive lawsuit against Eko. Eko today fired back with a lawsuit of its own. According to Variety, in addition to seeking recompense, Eko wants to force Quibi to reassign its patent to Eko:
Because Quibi refuses to cooperate with Eko or voluntarily rectify its blatant and egregious violation of Eko’s intellectual property rights, Eko now seeks relief from this Court to enjoin Defendant from using Eko’s confidential and trade secret information, from infringing Eko’s ’765 patent, and to require Quibi to assign Quibi’s ’926 patent to Eko because any innovation underlying Quibi’s ’926 patent is Eko’s, not Quibi’s…
The Wall Street Journal published a snippet of a letter sent from Eko to Quibi that sums up the acrimony between the two companies: “Given the shortness of time that it took Quibi to launch this technology and the extraordinary similarity between the two technologies, we can think of no credible explanation other than Quibi’s unauthorized use of Eko’s technology.”
Quibi itself is notable almost for who’s endorsing it rather than for its own merits: its new shows have some significant star power behind them, including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Teigen, and more. The man behind Quibi is none other than Jeffrey Katzenberg, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and co-founder of Dreamworks and damn, now I know how this company managed to attract investments from both Disney and Dreamworks’ parent company NBCUniversal.
Still, for all its advantages out of the gate, Quibi‘s going to have to battle the likes of YouTube and TikTok for attention. I wish it luck in that endeavor, because it’ll certainly need it. And maybe I’m talking out of school, but if anything puts Quibi ahead in the race, it won’t be this legally controversial Turnstyle feature.
Quibi is scheduled to launch next month.