Scooter maker Razor wants a monopoly on hoverboards in the US, and it’s willing to go to court to make sure of it. The company has filed a lawsuit against competing device maker Swagway in US District Court in California for patent infringement. Razor says it just signed a deal with inventor Shane Chen, who holds a patent for "a two-wheel, self-balancing personal vehicle," that gives it exclusive rights to sell hoverboards in the US, and Razor now sells its own brand of hoverboard, the Hovertrax, on its website for $599.99.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News on Thursday, is yet another development in the complex legal mess surrounding hoverboards. The self-balancing vehicles have exploded in popularity this year thanks to high-profile celebrities scooting around on social media and an influx of Chinese manufacturers rushing to capitalize on the boom. The patent situation is murky, however, resulting in a number of lawsuits among prominent hoverboard and scooter makers like IO Hawk, Segway, and Chen's company Inventist.
Hoverboards are proving a legal nightmare in the US and abroad
While large US companies battle it out, the hoverboard's popularity has created an entire underground industry selling knockoffs online. But these off-brand hoverboards have wildly varying prices and questionable components, and an increasing number of incidents involving "exploding" units have led UK authorities to confiscate 15,000 devices just this week. Both New York City and the UK's Crown Prosecution Service consider the device illegal to ride on public streets and sidewalks.
Razor is claiming that Swagway, which cut a deal with Target last month to sell its hoverboards through the US retailer, is infringing on Chen's patent by "making, using, offering for sale, selling, and/or importing ... without license or authority, Swagway, Swagaway X1, Swagway smart balancing electric skateboard, and related and similar products." Razor is seeking supplemental and compensatory damages from Swagway and wants the company to turn over all of its remaining products.
It's not out of character for the scooter maker. Razor was well known as an aggressive litigator in the early 2000s with the rise of the Razor scooter, having sued more than 20 sellers of similar products at the time.