Mark Cuban has called off a patent deal with Inventist, maker of the Hovertrax and one of the many companies trying to sell two-wheeled "hoverboards" in the United States, according BuzzFeed. Cuban told the outlet that he will make his own version instead.
As the popularity of these scooters skyrocketed this summer, a fierce legal battle began between Hovertrax inventor Shane Chen and the man who brought the IO Hawk scooter to the United States, John Soibatian. While this was going on, Cuban signed a letter of intent stating that he wanted to buy the patent license for Hovertrax. That essentially placed him next to Chen in the legal battle while giving him a chance to make money off of what could wind up being the legally protected version of a sure holiday season hit.
But Cuban apparently had a change of heart, telling BuzzFeed today that the deal is off. "We will come out with our own board that we feel respects necessary IP and introduces our own," he wrote in an email.
Cuban's running away from legal headaches and toward a booming market
The patent battle with IO Hawk isn't the only one that Chen is fighting. Segway, Inc. is also suing Chen over patent infringement. Exactly how those battles will play out is unclear, and the legality of many of these scooters was murky to begin with. Many of the myriad companies that sell them essentially buy and rebrand the scooters from the same Chinese company, with mostly cosmetic differences.
In fact, the entire industry is a patent mess right now. To wit: Segway's suit also claimed that Inventist's Solowheel infringed on Segway's patents. But Segway was recently bought by Ninebot, an arm of Xiaomi, and in the past Chen had claimed that Ninebot's own one-wheeled scooter (the "One") infringed on his patents for the Solowheel. And that was after Chen turned down a $5 million investment from Ninebot.
So it's easy to imagine why Cuban is going it alone. It not only distances him from those legal headaches, but the market for these scooters seems — almost unbelievably — even hotter now than it did this summer, so there could be more money to be made by selling his own version. Soibatian, however, offered BuzzFeed a more cynical take on Cuban's relationship with Chen earlier this year: "I think Shane sold [Cuban] a fake dream and Mark bid on it and now he’s headfirst into it."