PICTURE THE SCENE. It's Las Vegas. You are at the Consumer Electronics Show and you have just watched two US marshals raid a booth that promotes a one-wheeled plank transporter, or 'hoverboard'.
Exciting stuff eh? Maybe you are already thinking what we were thinking? That perhaps the raid was organised by the plain facts police as part of efforts to stop calling things with wheels hover things.
You are wrong. Have another guess. Think. This is about the technology industry and there is some friction. Yeah, you got it. Patents. It is patents that ruined the Las Vegas party for Changzhou First International Trade Co.
A report on Bloomberg, which stood as witness to the events, said that the Chinese firm is accused of using someone's existing technology for its own ends. This is a frequent concern in the industry.
Changzhou First is described as being "stunned". We assume this means emotionally, rather than being the result of a meeting with a sand and grit-stuffed hose pipe.
Silicon Valley startup Future Motion is the source of the CES hammer, according to the Bloomberg report. The firm said that it has been on top of the balance board and wheel game for some time now. Future Motion's legal people, and they would know, do not think that the company is wasting its time.
The argument is that the Chinese trotter board looks a lot like Future Motion's Kickstarter-backed device, the Onewheel.
"Would we have done this without the design patent being issued? The answer is we wouldn't have bothered," Shawn Kolitch, a lawyer for the company, told Bloomberg.
"If you can show the design patent drawing next to an accused product side by side, and they look identical, it helps your case."
Future Motion confirmed its current stance in blunt terms, and suggested that knock-offs are a no-no.
"Knocking off an invention that is patented and carefully quality-controlled is a disservice and unsafe to consumers. Future Motion welcomes fair competition, but companies that simply mimic Onewheel without the same technical know-how and safety assurances pose a threat not just to Future Motion, but to consumers and the industry at large," said Kyle Doerksen, CEO, inventor and chief engineer at Future Motion, in press statements.
"We will continue to vigorously defend our intellectual property rights around the world." µ
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