US Marshals raided the CES booth of a Chinese electric skateboard company today on the grounds it was showing off a product patented by another company, according to a report in Bloomberg. The device, a one-wheeled self-balancing skateboard called the Trotter, is made by Changzhou First International Trade, and the marshals confiscated it and every piece of promotional material at the booth. Future Motion, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a similar one-wheeled electric skateboard, says it has a patent on the product and sent the marshals alongside its legal team to shut down the copycat.
Future Motion's device is called the OneWheel, and The Verge tried it last year and at CES 2014. Future Motion now sells the device through its website for $1,500. Founder Kyle Doerksen left his design job at Ideo to create the product two years ago, and he tells Bloomberg he acquired two patents over the course of the last six months to protect it — one for the device's technology and another for its design.
Future Motion says it has two patents on the one-wheeled electric skateboard
After discovering Changzhou First International Trade's product late last year, Doerksen sent a cease and desist letter in December demanding the company stop selling the Trotter. He got no response. After failing to shut down their booth ahead of this year's CES, Future Motion received an order from a judge to get the Trotter pulled from the show. "If customers start to view the space as full of low-quality, low-cost products, that reflects poorly on everybody," Doerksen told Bloomberg. "We hate to see someone poison the well."
The incident is indicative of the murky legal atmosphere around uniquely designed electric skateboards and the more popular hoverboard, a two-wheeled self-balancing scooter that exploded in popularity this past year. A torrent of cheap hoverboards constructed in China flooded the US marketplace in 2015. Poor component quality, however, meant many of those devices are prone to catching fire. Now a US inventor named Shane Chen is working with scooter maker Razor to prevent other companies, like hoverboard maker Swagway, from selling the product in the US.