It looks like more than just presentations are going on at CES 2016 this week as yesterday two U.S. marshals seized products and merchandise from a Chinese company that had rented a booth at the show. At first, it seemed like one of the planned stunts that sometimes CES presenters create ahead of time to attract attention, but then it became very apparent that this was for real. Some attendees took brief video of the interaction and others later reported on the incident, since it was so strange and sudden.
So, what was the problem? Innovators in the U.S. are always working to protect their designs legally with patents, trademarking, and often times with being super sneaky about improvements and upgrades to protect themselves from being ripped off by other product manufacturers. Everyone wants the designer model, but not everyone wants to pay the price that's associated with the top of the line product, giving many companies that sell a cheaper version an opportunity to make a profit with lower quality merchandise. With so much hubub about the safety of gadgets like hoverboards, which CES officially put on their banned list this year, it's no wonder that tech companies are concerned with who might be making knockoffs of their products.
And that's exactly what happened with Future Motion and the Changzhou First International Trade company yesterday over an electric skateboard called Onewheel. The product was designed and invented in the U.S. but another strangely similar product was being featured on this year's CES show floor. The skateboard, dubbed "Trotter" by the Chinese manufacturer, is accused of being an infringement on the patents associated with the Onewheel design. The Consumer Technology Association is aware of the potential of confrontations linked with knockoff products of original designs and has official guidelines for companies wishing to take action against these competitors.
Onewheel inventor Kyle Doerksen took the initiative to thwart knockoff competition on behalf of his product and the market at the show this year saying, "We have patents both in the U.S. and internationally on both the design and the function of Onewheel and so we engaged our IP lawyers because we heard that there were going to be knockoffs of the Onewheel product appearing at CES." Doerksen actually presented at CES in 2014 where his Kickstarter campaign for the Onewheel product was launched and has since led to further development. Though his company did not have a booth at CES this year, we're sure that the Onewheel gang's presence was duly noted.
Overall, this crackdown might improve the safety of consumers who have been purchasing low-cost hoverboards or electric skateboards that overheat and catch fire. Says Doerksen, "If customers start to view the space as full of low-quality, low-cost products, that reflects poorly on everybody." It also minimizes the potential for this gadget to belong in the innovative and high tech space that can sell unique merchandise at a higher price point. It's a potentially booming sector in the tech world, and innovators like Doerksen are working to secure a future for these kinds of products.
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