Two US federal marshals raided the booth of a Chinese hoverboard company yesterday at CES. The badged law enforcement agents collected all of the company’s one-wheeled “Trotter” electric skateboards, as well as all related marketing materials. It was dramatic.
This all happened despite the Trotter’s apparent popularity with trade show attendees. But the reason for the unusually public raid, according to Bloomberg, was an ongoing claim of trademark infringement being levied by Silicon Valley startup Future Motion against Changzhou First International Trade Company, makers of the Trotter and proprietors of the booth that got raided. Future Motion claims to have already patented a rather similar electric skateboard design, right down to the single wheel in the centre, called the “Onewheel”.
Future Motion received a patent for the technology that powers its Onewheel board back in August, and very recently — earlier this week, to be exact — the American company also secured a patent for its design. Future Motion learned of what it described to Bloomberg as the “knockoff” product last year, and by December had formally requested that Changzhou cease selling the Trotter. A Future Motion lawyer filed a legal request yesterday to get the Trotter boards off the CES floor and that led to today’s raid.
The Onewheel boards go for $US1500 ($2146), while the Trotter boards were being marketed to retailers at $US500 ($715) a pop. So you can understand why one company wants the alleged copycats to get the heck out of Vegas.
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