Now that the internet has been tamed and civilized, what is the new tech Wild West? Hoverboards. Freakin’ hoverboards. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday, two U.S. marshals appeared at a Chinese company’s booth to seize items, including a one-wheeled skateboard. The raid was the result of complaints from Silicon Valley company Future Motion, which claimed to have a patent on a similar skateboard. According to Bloomberg, “the company sent about a half-dozen people from its legal team to accompany the marshals in the raid.” The marshals removed all signage and merchandise from the booth, leaving the staff manning it unsure of what to do next.
Future Motion argued that the Chinese company, Changzhou First International Trade, was selling a knockoff of its own Onewheel, a self-balancing skateboard that has one wheel placed in the middle of the board. Changzhou’s similar item sells for about a third of the price on Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce site. Ars Technica reports that lawyers for Future Motion filed a motion in court on Tuesday, and then had a seven-minute hearing via telephone on Wednesday. No one seems to have pointed out to Future Motion or Changzhou First International Trade that hoverboards are actually not cool.
Precisely who owns what when it comes to personal transportation devices like hoverboards and the Onewheel is very much in dispute. Despite hoverboards’ growing popularity, many people are fighting for control of the devices, and the profits that they generate. Many other people are just fighting to control the vehicles, period.