A Hawaii-based app developer is suing a competitor for patent infringement, setting the stage for a major court battle between two leaders in the photo animation space.

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Plotagraph Inc., maker of a suite of products sold under the Plotaverse brand, claims Lightricks Ltd., has been using technology developed by Plotagraph in its popular apps used to animate still photos or elements of the photos to create surrealistic images where things like waves, clouds, staircases and waterfalls move amidst otherwise still pictures.

In May 2018, not long after the Plotagraph app became the No. 1 app for photo and video sold on the Apple app store in 2017, company co-founders Troy Plota and Sascha Connelly moved to Wailea, Maui.

The company at the time was gaining traction with artists and influencers. Fans included Michael Muller, a Hollywood photographer who has produced iconic celebrity portraits and posters for clients like Marvel Studios, and Paris Hilton, who got millions of views on an Instagram post she made with the app. The pop singer Ariana Grande used a Plotagraph portrait on her Instagram page to promote her cover appearance on Elle magazine.

Plotagraph Inc., a Maui-based company that was the initial market leader in the photo animation space, has sued competitor Lightricks Ltd., for patent infringement. Screenshot/2022

Lightricks entered the market at around that time with its own product, then called Pixaloop. In the past few years, Plotagraph has continued to grow, adding features to its app and expanding its social networks of avid artists and followers. But Jerusalem-based Lightricks has also been on a growth path with its own suite of products.

The problem, according to Plotaverse, is that much of Lightricks’ growth has come from ripping off Plotagraph.

“Defendant Lightricks began in early September of 2018 to sell, offer for sale or import into the United States at least one infringing computer program or ‘App’ originally named ‘Pixaloop,’” the suit alleges. “Pixaloop, like Plaintiffs’ ‘Plotagraph’ App, allowed users to select a set of pixels which would then be animated by the Pixaloop App to appear to have motion.”

The suit asserts that the Pixaloop app, which was later named “Motionleap,” used many of the features that Plotagraph uses, like “anchors” and “masks” that creators plot on their images to prevent those elements from becoming animated.

According to the suit, programs using Plotagraph’s patented technology – covered by two patents — were downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store about 1.2 million times in October alone.

“Applying the same number for the 28 months back to when the first Plotagraph patents were issued, that is 33,600,000 downloads,” the suit says. Factoring royalty rates of $1 per patent, the suit calculates reasonable damages amount to $67,200,000.

The suit was filed in federal district court in Houston, Texas, a state known for massive jury awards.

Lightricks’ attorney, Houston-based Erik Janitens, declined to comment.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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