China is working hard to throw off a reputation for copycat hardware, but a public showdown between U.S. authorities and a Chinese company at CES this week didn’t help.
U.S. Federal Marshals reportedly raided the booth of a Chinese electric skateboard startup at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Thursday, seizing a number of the one-wheeled products.
The infringement complaint comes from Future Motion, makers of the Onewheel scooter, which bears a striking resemblance to the confiscated product made by Changzhou First International Trade Co. The American company filed a complaint in Vegas followed by a court hearing over the phone that permitted the raid and restraining order.
In an interview with Bloomberg Business Onewheel Inventor Kyle Doerksen said that the company was aware that the Chinese company would be exhibiting the product before the show. “We engaged our IP lawyers because we heard there were going to be knock offs of the Onewheel product appearing at CES,” said Mr. Doerksen.
“So we went through the formal US legal process to get a temporary restraining order against one of these companies thats trying to sell a knock off product to the States for the first time.”
While China’s IP protection environment has seen some improvement in recent years, the country still struggles with counterfeits and knock offs, compromising the country’s reputation abroad. Companies like Xiaomi have injected some legitimacy into the practice of making better quality hardware for lower prices, though startups within the country are still struggling to remain competitive within the low-cost ecosystem.
Nonetheless, electric scooters, skateboards and hoverboards have gained a lot of traction among young Chinese startups who are taking advantage of the country’s close proximity to manufacturing.
Last April China-based Ninebot, backed by Xiaomi, acquired Segway, the U.S. company that popularized self-balancing electric scooters. Xiaomi and Ninebot have since released a modified ‘handleless’ scooter backed by the Segway technology.
The scooter at the centre of Thurday’s raid uses similar sensors to keep the board balanced around a central wheel. The Chinese company told the BBC that they didn’t believe they had broken the law, and that they had kept the technology private to avoid copycats from other Chinese technology companies.
Image Credit: Onewheel