TikTok Sued For Patent Infringement By Competitor Triller

Social media video sharing platform Triller filed a complaint for patent infringement against its competitor, Beijing-based ByteDance, and its subsidiary TikTok, over their use of stitched- together short-form videos synched to audio; the suit was filed on Wednesday in the Western District of Texas.

The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 9,691,429 (the ’429 patent), registered in June 2017 and entitled “Systems and methods for creating music videos synchronized with an audio track.”

Triller is an “application [that] allows its users to create and share their own music video creations…[it] provides users with the ability to create flawless, synchronized videos and to share those videos with other users.” Triller alleged that the defendants infringed this patent through the TikTok app, which provides “subscribers with social video platform services to create and distribute music videos.”  TikTok is accused of infringing at least Claims 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the ’429 patent.

Claim 1 provides for “[a] method for creating a music video in which a plurality of video takes is synchronized to an audio track.” Specifically, TikTok allows users to “select an audio track” by clicking on the “sounds” option. TikTok users can also “captur[e] a plurality of video takes” by pressing the “red ‘record’ button.” TikTok users are able to select previous video takes by pressing the “Green Screen Video” effect option, which was launched in December 2019. This option “allows users to shoot multiple video takes synchronized to an audio option.” By utilizing these features, TikTok enables users to have a variety of video takes that are synchronized to audio, allegedly infringing claim 1 of the patent-in-suit.

Furthermore, as stated in claim 5, TikTok allows users to “extract…portions of each take of the plurality of captured video takes to be used for sections of the selected audio track, the extracted portions forming the subset of the plurality of video takes.” For example, TikTok’s Green Screen Video effect allows this functionality, whereby a user can select portions from each take to use in the final version of the video set, which is synchronized to audio. As stated in claim 6, the audio “is stored on at least one of: a user device; a music server; and an external device.” TikTok’s audio only seems to let users connect and select music when it is connected to a music server through a network connection, thus TikTok allegedly relies on this patented claim for its music functionality. 

Triller proffered that TikTok infringed claim 3 of the ’429 patent, which states “the plurality of video takes are captured using a user device.” Triller alleged that TikTok infringed this claim because the TikTok app is available for Apple or Android devices on their respective application stores, thus these occur on the user’s device. TikTok also supposedly infringed claim 4 of the patent, which claims, “‘[t]he method of claim 3, wherein the user device comprises at least one image capturing component’ such as a built-in digital camera.” The alleged devices that users would be using for TikTok would have said built-in camera. 

Lastly, claim 7 states, that the app allows “playing the selected audio track while each video take of the plurality of video takes is captured.” TikTok allegedly infringed this claim because users can play the audio while each video take is being captured to create the “plurality of video takes.”

Triller accused TikTok of direct, indirect, and contributory infringement and claimed that this infringement was willful. Triller has sought declaratory judgment, an award for damages, an injunction, an award for attorneys’ fees and costs, pre- and post-judgment interest, and other relief.

Triller is represented by Workman Nydegger with Ward, Smith & Hill, PLLC.

TikTok has recently raised privacy and national security concerns over its close ties to China. Additionally, there have also been discussions about banning the app in the United States altogether, both factors have caused some TikTok stars to leave the app and move over to Triller.