Trier, a social video platform, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against its biggest rival, TikTok, and parent company, Byte Dance,media outlet TechCrunch reported. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that TikTok violated Triller’s U.S. patent number 9,691,429. The patent covers “systems and methods for creating music videos that are synchronized with audio tracks.”
The patent lists Triller co-founders David Leiberman and Samuel Rubin as inventors. It was originally submitted on 11 April 2015 and was authorized on 27 June 2017.
The patent describes a way to create video synchronized with audio, including, in some cases, when one or more video shots are captured, the selected audio track plays. The company said TikTok now violates the feature by allowing its users to stitch multiple videos together while using the same audio track.
Triller’s file shows how TikTok works by choosing a single audio track to play simultaneously with video. It also points to a blog post by the TikTok News Center on 11 December 2019 in which TikTok introduces a new “green screen video” effect. The post describes the effect as users shooting on videos played against an audio sync background. This is described in litigation as an example of infringement.
Triller said in the filing that TikTok received an infringement notice via email on July 27, 2020.
TikTok isn’t the only company offering such video-syncing apps, but it’s the biggest. Today, the TikTok app has more than 189 million installations in the U.S., while Triller has more than 23 million installations, according to Sensor Tower, a store intelligence firm. Another competitor with more installs than Triller is Dubsmash, which has so far had 41.5 million downloads in the United States. Lomotif, Likee and Byte have less influence, with 21.2 million, 16 million and 2.5 million installed in the United States, respectively.
Triller is also understood to be planning patent claims against other competitors, including Dubsmash, Instagram (for its Reels products) and Lomotif. But these claims may be filed one at a time, not all at once, as lawyers are trying to detail how each individual application experience is infringing.
Dubsmash responded that the company had not received anything from Triller. “Given that Dubsmash was launched six months before their services were launched on the App Store and the Play Store, we would find this far-fetched.” Suchit Dash, co-founder and president of Dubsmash, points out. TikTok has not yet responded to a request for comment. Instagram has no comment.
At the time of writing, Triller’s other cases had not yet been filed.
Musical.ly, which was acquired by ByteDance and incorporated into TikTok, also has a patent related to “generating and sharing lip video,” which was filed in 2016 and granted in 2017 but is not mentioned in the lawsuit. Asked how Triller plans to fund such litigation, the company responded that it has the support of some of the world’s largest institutions and is ready to take the matter to court.
In fact, Triller is funded by Lowercase Capital, Carnegie Technologies, the film production company Proxima Media, Fubon Financial Holdings Ltd. and Indonesia’s GDP Venture. Last year, Triller raised $28 million in venture capital, valuing its business at $130 million, the Wall Street Journal reported. So far, the company has raised $37.5 million, according to Crunchbase.
The Wrap and Bloomberg Law first reported on Triller’s lawsuit. The lawsuit comes at a time when TikTok’s app is under increasing scrutiny in the United States.
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, recently confirmed that the department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was reviewing the application of TikTok. His statement followed a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said earlier this month that the U.S. was considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps for national security reasons.
If this happens, Triller is likely to benefit. In this context, the timing of its application is no accident. The company was also reported this week to raise new capital. Fox Business reported that Triller is raising $200-300 million in discussions over the TikTok ban. In particular, Triller’s management was shocked that TikTok encouraged users to post videos specifically on their platforms.
“We were shocked to learn that TikTok was actually using their influencers’ money to pay influencers so that they would not actually post on Triller, effectively prohibiting any posting on Triller.” Triller CEO Mike Lu said. He wants to capitalize on the growing negativity surrounding the tech giants, as evidenced by the antitrust hearings, adding that such a move would be anticompetitive for TikTok.
“It’s neither moral nor legal to us.” Mike said. “If every 200B company can pay their customers at will to keep them from joining the startup’s competitors, then American entrepreneurship will die out and no new companies will exist.”