Quibi, the mobile-only streaming platform which has full backing from every major Hollywood studio and tons of big-name filmmakers and performers signed on to star in shows and movies, is supposed to launch next Monday, April 6, 2020. But a company called Eko is alleging that Quibi’s “Turnstyle” technology, which allows for seamless video transitions when switching between landscape and portrait mode, is actually stolen technology, and demanding that a judge stop Quibi’s launch until the situation is resolved.
Could This Quibi Lawsuit Bring Down the Company Before It Even Launches?
Before we get into today’s filings, here’s a bit of background. You probably know all about Quibi, who’s trying to carve out its own slice of the streaming market with exclusive short-form content. But I doubt you’ve heard of Eko, a tech startup that issued a complaint against Quibi to Apple’s app store in early March. Eko believes Quibi stole the technology for Turnstyle mode. According to Eko, Quibi only applied for a patent for a version of the technology after Eko made a confidential demo of the tech to key Quibi executives, including Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The two companies were already locked in a legal battle. Quibi sued Eko on March 9 to stop them from “improperly tarnishing Quibi’s brand” in the lead-up to Quibi’s launch, and Eko filed its own lawsuit the very next day. Today, Eko again filed paperwork in federal court asking for Quibi to be shut down in order for Eko’s trade secrets to be preserved. “This trade secret technology, which is a critical part of Eko’s technology platform, had been shared with Quibi employees under multiple non-disclosure agreements,” the filing reads via Deadline, claiming that Quibi “secretly misappropriated Eko’s proprietary technology.”
“Quibi, having raised $2 billion, and under enormous pressure to deliver on the media hype it generated, was desperate to find a way to deliver content,” Eko’s reps said in the filing. “Not having the technology to do so, it misappropriated Eko’s trade secrets, claiming them as its own.”
I’m not a lawyer, and the American legal system seems purposefully designed to confuse laymen as much as possible, so it’s unclear to me how today’s filing is any different than the lawsuit that was already put in motion last month. But regardless, Quibi does not seem the least bit concerned about any of this. “Our Turnstyle technology was developed internally at Quibi by our talented engineers and we have, in fact, received a patent for it,” they said in a statement, promising that “these claims have absolutely no merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them in court.”
Is this a case where an unknown startup is trying to make a name for itself, or a genuine case of corporate IP theft? I guess the courts will decide – but they’ll have to act extremely quickly if they’re going to make a ruling before Quibi launches on Monday. Assuming this falls in Quibi’s favor, here’s everything that’s coming to the new platform this month.
At least 300,000 individuals downloaded Quibi, the entertainment industry's newest streaming service, on its Monday launch date according to data from two analytics firms.
Sensor Tower reported that more than 300,000 users downloaded the mobile-only, short form platform while App Annie estimated 700,000 users downloaded Quibi on Monday. The numbers were originally reported by Variety and the Los Angeles Times, respectively. IndieWire confirmed the data with both analytics firms.
The sharply varying numbers make it difficult to determine how much traction Quibi gained on its launch day and exemplifies the difficulty of determining how successful streaming services are. While Nielsen's ratings have long been the voice of authority for television viewership, there is no standard of measurement for the industry's numerous streaming services.
A Quibi spokesperson referred IndieWire to the Los Angeles Times report and did not release its own data on downloads.
“We are very excited about our day one performance,” Quibi said in a statement.
While it's unclear which data set is accurate, that at least 300,000 users downloaded the “quick bites” streaming service suggest that Quibi turned more than a few heads on Monday. The platform launched with dozens of original titles — Quibi offers no library content — and boasts significant star power. A wide variety of household names, from Cardi B and Chance the Rapper to Idris Elba, Will Forte, and Kaitlin Olson, star in various Quibi series, and entertainment industry heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh are working on upcoming projects for the platform.
While hundreds of thousands of users have downloaded the app, only time will tell if they stick around long enough to make the $1.75 billion-backed platform a success. Quibi is offering a lengthy 90-day free trial, which no doubt helped court early adopters, and a yearlong subscription is available for free to select T-Mobile customers. An ad-supported version of Quibi costs $4.99 per month, while the ad-free version runs $7.99 per month.
IndieWire praised a handful of Quibi's launch titles, including LeBron James’ documentary “I Promise” and the noire-inspired “Movie in Chapters.” That said, “Memory Hole,” one of IndieWire's top rated Quibi launch titles, became the center of controversy when an art collective claimed the show plagiarized its art and other material.