Chinese hoverboard manufacturer Changzhou First International Trade got an unpleasant surprise on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show, when U.S. Marshals seized their stock and closed the booth.
The raid wasn’t based on battery fires or individuals tootling around on hoverless boards. Instead, the product, called the Trotter, is alleged to have infringed a patent claimed by Future Motion. Future Motion debuted its single-wheeled vehicle, called Onewheel, at CES last year. The company chose to get a restraining order against Changzhou, and the U.S. Marshals served a court order at CES 2016.
Future Motion had been working on investigating Changzhou’s presence at CES for about a week after it received a second patent for the design, which legally outlined that competitors were not allowed to make a product that might be visually similar to the average observer. Shawn Kolitch, a lawyer for Future Motion, said that the company wouldn’t have gone through with the accusation if the design patent hadn’t been approved.
Future Motions had known about Changzhou’s project since last year, and in December, sent a letter to the company to request that it stop selling the product. It didn’t, and by 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Onewheel had requested that a judge keep Changzhou from displaying the Trotter at the show.
Kyle Doerksen, the designer of the Onewheel, said that he also followed through with the legal battle because he didn’t want cheap hoverboards – the kind known for exploding – ruining the market before more products had the chance to catch on. The Onewheel sells for $1,500, while Changzhou said that its product will sell to retailers for $500.
CES and the group that runs it, the Consumer Technology Association, has its own legal guidelines for companies who feel their ideas are being infringed upon at the show. They also don’t necessarily screen for products that look similar to others, since a device can have a similar form factor without being a knockoff.
Changzhou has not released a statement about the incident.
Future Motors did not have its own booth at CES.