Tech

Quibi Target of Injunction Request Seeking to Block Its Turnstyle Mobile Tech

Five days before Quibi’s scheduled April 6 launch, the Jeffrey Katzenberg-founded mobile-video venture has been hit with another legal action — demanding that Quibi be forced to stop using technology it allegedly stole from an interactive-video company.

The motion seeking a preliminary injunction against Quibi comes from New York-based Eko, which last month sued Quibi for allegedly infringing one of Eko’s patents and misappropriating trade secrets. The dispute centers on Quibi’s Turnstyle feature, which determines the orientation of a viewer’s phone (either horizontal or vertical) and presents content in the appropriate mode.

On Wednesday (April 1), Eko filed a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking a preliminary injunction enjoining Quibi from “misappropriating Eko’s proprietary technology for mobile device optimized ‘Real Time Switching.’”

If the court grants Eko’s request for an injunction, it could force Quibi to redesign the app. However, the legal maneuver does not threaten to derail Quibi’s launch next week, because Eko is not looking for a temporary restraining order (which requires defendants to immediately suspend their accused activity). Eko, in its March 10 lawsuit, had already said it was seeking an injunction to stop Quibi from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using the Turnstyle feature.”

Asked for comment on Eko’s latest filing, a Quibi rep reiterated the company’s previous position, stating, “Our Turnstyle technology was developed internally at Quibi by our talented engineers and we have, in fact, received a patent for it. These claims have absolutely no merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them in court.”

In court filings, Quibi claims it began developing Turnstyle in September 2018 and notes that this past February it was granted a patent covering various aspects of the technology. Quibi also asserts that Eko has tried to “coerce” payments from Quibi related to Eko’s own patent.

According to the Eko lawsuit, Eko’s patented technology was shared with Quibi employees under multiple non-disclosure agreements. After being contacted by Eko about the issue, “Quibi ignored Eko’s warnings and Quibi secretly misappropriated Eko’s proprietary technology,” the Eko suit claims. “It hid its theft until making a massive public splash in a keynote address at the January 2020 Consumer Electronics Show… proclaiming it as Quibi’s own ‘Turnstyle’ technology.”

Quibi is set to launch next Monday, April 6, with a slate of 50 short-form shows featuring a range of notable talent including Jennifer Lopez, Chance the Rapper, Chrissy Teigen, Liam Hemsworth, Sophie Turner, Lena Waithe, Nicole Richie and Reese Witherspoon. In its request for an injunction, Eko says derisively, “Quibi appears to believe that because of its star power and its efforts to attract Hollywood talent, it is above the law.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Eko alleges, “Quibi exploited the ‘stay-at-home’ orders as a marketing tool to encourage people to sign up for its Turnstyle platform based on the misappropriated Eko technology.” Eko claimed it has “suffered reputational harm” and said it filed the motion for a preliminary injunction “to stop Quibi from capitalizing on its theft of Eko’s proprietary mobile device optimized RTS technology and to preserve the status quo.”

Prior to Eko’s original lawsuit, Quibi proactively filed a federal lawsuit on March 9 seeking a judgment that its Turnstyle mobile-video technology does not infringe Eko’s patent and that Quibi did not steal trade secrets.

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