Shortly before its rocky launch back in April, Quibi was accused of stealing the gimmicky technology at the heart of its struggling mobile-first streaming service in a high-stakes lawsuit brought by video company Eko—a legal battle that’s stretched on as Quibi battles myriad other public and private crises.
This week, a judge denied an injunction to disable Quibi’s Turnstyle feature, one that orients the video a user sees on their screen based on whether their phone is held in landscape or portrait. The feature is part of the entire point of Quibi, a service that originally billed itself as a streaming service for people on the move and serves up short, grab-and-go content that can be either binge-watched or viewed during five-minute pockets of spare time throughout the day.
The tech essentially works by ensuring a high-quality viewing experience no matter how a phone is positioned, meaning video won’t be shrunk down to a teeny rectangle when a phone is in portrait orientation. It’s one of the foundational differences that ostensibly sets Quibi apart from other short-form video platforms like, say, Instagram or YouTube. It’s integral to the company’s whole “video on the go” bit—which, given the fact that few of us are spending a lot of time outside of our homes these days, isn’t really panning out as Quibi had hoped. But that’s another issue entirely.
In a lawsuit filed back in March, Quibi was accused of stealing trade secrets from Eko, which alleged that it shared details of the video-orientation technology under NDA with employees and executives who later landed at the embattled streaming startup and used that information to develop Turnstyle. Quibi, meanwhile, sued over the allegation itself and maintained the tech “was developed internally at Quibi by our talented engineers and we have, in fact, received a patent for it.”
This week, Quibi again doubled down by calling the lawsuit a groundless money-grab.
“We are extremely pleased the Court ruled today that Eko has not presented a credible case for a preliminary injunction. Eko has no case against Quibi—this is a frivolous lawsuit brought by a company and CEO looking for a payday,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “We will continue to aggressively defend ourselves.”
Eko attorney Neel Chatterjee, meanwhile, said the company would “look forward to presenting the merits of the case at trial, including our request for substantial damages.”
This week’s ruling is a small victory for Quibi. But the service still has a whole hell of a lot of other problems—namely that no one is actually paying to use Quibi. And with the launch of Peacock this week, Quibi is facing down yet another streaming competitor—this one with a free tier, to boot (something Quibi doesn’t offer).
What I’m trying to say here is that even Quibi’s good weeks are bad weeks, at this point.