Quibi, the upcoming mobile-only streaming service led by CEO Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, is arguing that one of its app’s standout features does not violate a patent held by digital video company Eko, according to a lawsuit filed by Quibi Monday.
At the heart of the matter is Turnstyle, Quibi’s technology for detecting how a viewer is holding their phone and whether a video should display in landscape or portrait mode. Quibi, which is set to launch on April 6, debuted the feature at CES in Las Vegas in January. It was soon after this conference, the lawsuit claims, that Eko allegedly claimed Quibi unlawfully lifted its technology and allegedly “embarked on a campaign of threats and harassment to coerce money or a licensing deal from Quibi.”
Katzenberg had met with Eko CEO Yoni Bloch in March 2017, according to the lawsuit, over a potential investment. Katzenberg “barely remembers the meeting,” according to the lawsuit, and did not invest. A year later, he started Quibi, and in March 2019, two Quibi employees met with Eko to “get reacquainted” with the company, per the lawsuit. This point in time was “well after” Quibi began developing its technology, according to the lawsuit.
After the January CES, according to the lawsuit, Eko allegedly sent a letter to Quibi saying those two Quibi employees at the 2019 meeting had stolen trade secrets and source code. Eko, according to the lawsuit, allegedly filed a notice with Apple’s App Store in an effort to “derail” Quibi’s launch and contacted reporters at The Wall Street Journal and Recode.
Quibi’s lawsuit refuted those alleged claims, arguing, “The employees referenced by Eko are not engineers or computer programmers, do not read source code, and would have had no reason to request or obtain Eko code. In any event, no Quibi employee brought or used any Eko trade secrets, computer code, or proprietary information.”
“As a result, an actual case and controversy exists between Quibi and Eko, requiring Quibi to seek a declaratory judgment addressing the parties’ rights and obligations, and to enjoin Eko from taking any further steps to improperly tarnish Quibi’s brand or to interfere with Quibi’s highly anticipated launch,” the lawsuit claims.
Eko, in a statement shared with TheWrap, called Quibi’s move a “PR stunt.”
“Eko was stunned to learn that the Quibi technology is a near-identical copy of its own, from the patented smart video response system down to the way files are created, formatted and stored,” the statement added.
Eko claims Quibi’s Turnstyle feature violates a patent it received in October 2019. Quibi received its own patent for the app’s technology last month.
Quibi is seeking an unspecified sum in monetary damages.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.