EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED, 11:15 AM: Jeffrey Katzenberg has always loved a good scrap, and the Quibi kingpin came out swinging Tuesday after being officially named a defendant in the ongoing and competing lawsuits over the mobile platform’s Turnstyle technology.
“With its amended complaint, Eko’s desperation and the weakness of their case are more transparent than ever,” said a spokesperson for the Meg Whitman-run Quibi to Deadline this morning, after we broke that Katzenberg and several Quibi staffers had been added to the Eko’s suit alleging patent infringement and now breach of contract.
“No new facts are alleged and it seems designed only to try to score more publicity,” Quibi went on to say, with an always present eye to media perspectives and coverage.
“Eko can revise, recut and redo their tortured arguments all they want, but the shakedown won’t work,” the statement punches. “Our patented Turnstyle feature, created by our talented engineers, does not even remotely infringe on any product Eko has ever developed. We’ll fight this cynical lawsuit to the end and are confident we’ll win.”
Victory for either side in the more than a month long battle will, in no small part, depend on what a federal judge ultimately decides of Eko’s request for a preliminary injunction over the motion-flipping function.
(3:44 PM: Eko later responded to the Quibi response with: “Mr. Katzenberg’s statement is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to try to deflect attention from the fact that his actions and those of his executives are what compelled us to add them as defendants. The facts, as laid out in our amended complaint, speak for themselves.”)
After multiple filings and the less than stellar launch of Quibi on April 6, the parties faced off in a telephonic conference last week. No word yet when Judge John A. Kronstadt will make his ruling or whether another conference or briefing will be required.
PREVIOUSLY, 10:21 AM: As Quibi awaits a federal judge’s decision on a preliminary injunction request over its much hyped Turnstyle feature, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has been added as a defendant by rival Eko in the legal war over the motion-flipping technology.
“This is a case to stop the on-going irreparable harm to eko based on Quibi’s theft of eko’s ideas, trade secrets and proprietary technology effected through Smith, Burfitt, Katzenberg and others,” says the partially redacted amended complaint filed late last night in federal court. “Defendants have attempted to steal a number of ideas core to Eko’s business, and have launched a business claiming the ideas and technologies as their own,” the document (READ IT HERE) adds with more claims and Quibi employees Clifton Smith, Joseph Burfitt, Robert A. Post, Jr, Blake Barnes, and their head of engineering Eric Buehl.
Coming on the same day that the ex-DreamWorks Animation boss lamented at length to the media about how the coronavirus health crisis hampered the launch of the mobile streaming platform, the latest move from the now Elliott Management–backed interactive-video company is a pretty clear effort to up the ante – the original complaint from Eko simply named Quibi Holdings LLC, though Katzenberg’s name and those of others who joined Quibi from Snap were all over it.
Boiled down to its essence, the amended complaint pulls in the marquee Katzenberg for the new breach of implied contract claim, adds ex-Snap staffers Burfitt and Smith as defendants now for violation of confidentiality obligations and now has a trademark claim based on the allegation that Quibi ripped off Eko’s logo as well. Eko’s parent company JBF Interlude 2009 Ltd. – Israel went to court with its March 10 lawsuit the day after Quibi first took the accuser to court themselves.
Today Quibi did not respond to request for comment from Deadline on the new claims and the new defendants from the Meg Whitman-run company.
Aimed squarely at the smartphone crowd and a big part of Quibi’s unique offering at launch, the Turnstyle feature allows viewers of short shows like the Chance the Rapper hosted Punk’d revival, Idris Elba in cars and Chrissy’s Court, plus segmented movies with Liam Hemsworth and Sophie Turner, to literally flip their devices for whole new aspects of the programming.
“Half of the asset for each particular show disappears,” Quibi’s top outside counsel Michael Jacobs told Judge John A Kronstadt last week in a sometimes heated telephonic conference between the parties of the consequences of eko getting the preliminary injunction they filed for on April 8.
With nearly 80% America still under some form of COVID-19 lockdown, current events have certainly undermined the on-the-go premise of the service. In response, as well as offering a non-Turnstyle TV-version soon, the mobile platform is now offering a 90-day free trial to those who signed up on its website in early April. Having raised $1.75 billion in funding, Quibi plans to release 175 original shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year with regular monthly pricing set at $4.99 (with ads) and $7.99 (no ads),
A ruling by Kronstadt on Eko’s preliminary injunction motion could come at any time. However, with the courts scaled back because of the pandemic there could be further briefing occurring before any decision is made, and that could take a while to pull together.