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Segway is suing popular 'hoverboard' makers for patent infringement

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Maurizio Pesce / Flickr

This year has seen Inventist's Hovertrax grow into one of the most prominent and successful rideables — but is that success coming at the expense of the Segway? A lawsuit filed by Segway Inc. in a Delaware district court on Friday alleges that both the Hovertrax and the Solowheel willfully violate Segway's existing patents. As recompense, Segway seeks damages, attorney fees and a permanent injunction preventing Inventist from selling any of the infringing products. If the suit is successful, it could stop Inventist's latest product in its tracks.

Inventist's Hovertrax has attracted a celebrity following in recent months, spotted under celebrities from Jamie Foxx to Justin Bieber. Significantly cheaper than any Segway models to date, it has reached a much broader audience than its predecessor. At the same time, the Hovertrax has often been described in the press as a "Segway without a pole" or in similar terms.

"Balancing vehicles and methods for transporting individuals over ground."

The new suit names a number of related patents, but pays special attention to US Patent 6,302,230, which covers the Segway's unique method of transportation, "particularly to balancing vehicles and methods for transporting individuals over ground having a surface that may be irregular." According to the complaint, "Inventist has knowledge of the ‘230 patent or has acted with willful blindness to its existence." Similar claims are made for US Patent No. 6,651,763, US Patent No. 7,023,330, US Patent No. 7,275,607, and US Patent No. 7,479,872.

As The Hollywood Reporter points out, Inventist also has its own patent for the two-footed control method for the Hovertrax, and has sued a number of imitators based on the filing. The Segway claim focuses more on the balance-monitoring system; it's still unclear whether Inventist will be able to use its preexisting patent in mounting a defense.

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