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CES 2016

Piracy on the high CES: Chinese firm has booth raided in Vegas as Future Motion cries foul over hoverboard patent violations

Changzhou First International Trade’s Trotter is ‘clearly a knockoff’ of the Onewheel, US company claims

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 5:10pm

A Chinese manufacturer has had its products seized by authorities at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas after Silicon Valley-based start-up Future Motion claimed Changzhou First International Trade copied its Onewheel electric hoverboard.

Future Motion reportedly filed for a court order to be served to the Chinese company on the grounds of patent violation regarding its design.

It took legal action after letters from its lawyer were ignored and in the wake of a face-to-face confrontation during which a Future Motion employee demanded the company stop selling the product, dubbed Trotter.

Two US federal marshals turned up at Changzhou First’s CES booth and removed the gadget from display.

WATCH: Future Motion’s promotional ad for its ‘revolutionary’ Onewheel hoverboard

Future Motion’s chief engineer Kyle Doerksen described it as being “clearly a knockoff”.

The booth was also stripped of its signs and flyers, Bloomberg reported.

Future Motion holds two patents for the Onewheel – one for the technology and another for product design. The latter prohibits rivals from producing a similar-looking device.

“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, a lawyer for Future Motion, was quoted as saying.

The US company first launched the device on Kickstarter and attracted US$630,000 in pledges. It now retails for US$1500 – three times the price of the alleged knockoff.

Future Motion’s legal action comes as China is trying to shed its image as a country where companies routinely copy foreign products and churn out lookalikes at a much cheaper price, and establish itself as a force of innovation.

A case in point would be smartphone and other electronic gadget maker Xiaomi, which has long been hailed as an Apple clone but is branching out to form its own identity.

READ MORE: Xiaomi smartphone chief predicts ‘Chinese companies will lead world in future’

Yet patent infringement cases persist.

American-Chinese Shane Chen is taking legal action against a US company that sources its products from China.

Chen, who claims to have patented and invented a two-wheeled hoverboard, US scooter company Razer exclusive rights to sell the devices in the US.

But the gadget’s wild popularity has given rise to a slew of Chinese manufacturers producing cheaper versions for export, some of which have caused accidents due to shoddy product quality.

Some have reportedly caught fire, others have exploded. Many of the companies are based in Shenzhen, Quartz reports.

This has prompted Amazon to pull certain models from its site and resulted in 60 airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, imposing a ban on hoverboards being taken onto planes.

“If customers start to view the [industry] as full of low-quality, low-cost products, that reflects poorly on everybody,” Doerksen was quoted as saying.

“We hate to see someone poison the well,” he added.