Segway Patent Deals Blow to Hoverboard Industry

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

A blow has been dealt to the hoverboard industry after Segway successfully filed a patent which bans certain personal transporter devices being manufactured and imported into the US, the International Trade Commission has ruled.

The ban is described as a general exclusion order prohibiting the unlicensed entry into the country of “certain personal transporters that infringe one patent asserted in this investigation,” as well as a limited exclusion order “prohibiting the unlicensed entry of infringing personal transporters, components thereof, and manuals.”

Hoverboards have been mass produced in China in recent years and have been selling in the US market, but the new regulation will now bring this trading to an end.

The ban is based on a patent infringement claim filed in November of 2014 by Segway and DEKA Research (the company founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen).

“The transporter is capable of balanced operation on one or more ground-contacting elements,” says the patent description. “User-specified input may be conveyed by the user using any of a large variety of input modalities, including: ultrasonic body position sensing; foot force sensing; handlebar lean; active handlebar; mechanical sensing of body position; and linear slide directional input.”

“[The general exclusion order] is particularly significant because it blocks importation of all products from all sources that infringe a broad patent covering Segway’s PTs,” Segway said in a statement. “It will be enforced at the border by U.S. Customs, which will exclude all infringing imports from entry into the United States. Segway will work with both Customs and the ITC to support effective implementation of the order.”

The news of further restrictions on hoverboards comes after safety concerns surrounding the products. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a notice to all manufacturers and distributors of hoverboards recommending the suspension of sales until they are certified by UL safety organisation.

The patent could be a final blow to the popularity of hoverboards, meaning that even if safety regulations are met, the hoverboards’ marketability could rapidly deteriorate.

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