The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is best known as the stomping grounds of innovators and tech geeks, but yesterday’s show drew the presence of an unexpected guest: the US Marshals Services. In a bizarre event, two U.S. federal marshals turned up Thursday afternoon to raid a Chinese company’s hoverboard booth, seizing all the displayed merchandise and promotional signage. Bloomberg reports that the federal marshals were called in by a Silicon Valley startup that accused the Chinese company of stealing their patented hoverboard design.
The confiscated product, called the Trotter, isn’t like most hoverboards we’ve seen. The raided company, Changzhou First International Trade, had on display an electronic one-wheeled skateboard with a large gyroscopic wheel placed in the center of the board. The one-wheeled skateboard gives the sensation of hovering when ridden.
However, Silicon Valley startup Future Motion contends Changzhou First International Trade Co.’s hoverboard was actually a knock-off of their Onewheel hoverboard. Future Motion designer Kyle Doerksen said he invented Onewheel, displayed the prototype at CES 2014, and even launched a successful Kickstarter that raised $630,000. Both the design and underlying technology of Onewheel are patented. According to Bloomberg, Future Motion decided against getting a booth at CES 2016 but was in town to meet potential business partners.
In comparison to Onewheel’s retail price of $1,500, Changzhou First International Trade Co.’s Trotter, which looks identical, was listed on Alibaba for $550 apiece for some 20 boards. “We said, ‘Wow, that’s clearly a knockoff,’” Doerksen said to Bloomberg. After unsuccessful attempts at contacting Changzhou First International Trade, Future Motion filed a request with a judge on Wednesday to take Trotters out of the trade show.
The federal marshals’ raid stripped the Chinese company’s booth of all its merchandise and signage. The three-day CES event ends tomorrow. “If customers start to view the space as full of low-quality, low-cost products, that reflects poorly on everybody,” said Doerksen to Bloomberg. “We hate to see someone poison the well.”