A Chinese company at CES was raided by the U.S. Marshals on Thursday for producing and selling a knockoff of a patented single-wheeled electric skateboard.
Changzhou First International Trade's "Trotter" electric skateboard infringed on Future Motion's Onewheel design and technology, according Bloomberg. The Marshals confiscated all Trotter devices, promotional signage and fliers.
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Kyle Doerksen, the creator of the Onewheel, said he made several attempts prior to the booth raid to get Changzhou First International Trade to cease and desist, but never heard back from them.
Click through images from CES 2016:
The Trotter strongly resembles the Onewheel, but costs a fraction of the price: $500 versus $1,500.
"If you can show the design patent drawing next to an accused product side by side, and they look identical, it helps your case," Shawn Kolitch told Bloomberg. Kolitch said Future Motion wouldn't have moved forward with legal action if not for the patents it holds. The company holds two patents: one for the Onewheel's technology, issued last year, and one for its design, issued last week.
First Motion's legal action isn't merely a power play to stop lower-priced knockoffs from overtaking its business. Doerksen said it'll also protect the electric skateboard industry's reputation and send a message that quality (and safety) matters. "If customers start to view the space as full of low-quality, low-cost products, that reflects poorly on everybody."
In recent months, two-wheeled electric skateboards, better known as "hoverboards," have been called into question over safety concerns. There was an increase in hoverboard explosions during the holidays, as people found out their new personal electric skateboards were knockoffs with faulty batteries inside.
Doerksen and First Motion aren't the first ones to take legal action patent-infringing electric "rideables." In December, Razor sued Swagway for patent infringement. Similarly, Segway sued Inventist for more or less the same thing back in September. In other words, the entire hoverboard/electric skateboard industry is suing each other over patent violations.
The raid on Changzhou First International Trade's CES booth is just the beginning of an ugly war over hoverboard patents.