Remember How US Marshals Seized All Those 'Hoverboards' At CES In A Patent Dispute? The Company Has Now Dropped The Case

from the wait,-what? dept

Back in January, we wrote with some concern over the news that US Marshals had seized a bunch of one wheel scooters that everyone wants to call hoverboards, even though they don’t hover. The case involved a US company, Future Motion, that had gotten a lot of attention (and a utility patent and a design patent) on such single-wheel balancing scooters. Future Motion then sued a Chinese firm, Changzhou First International Trade Co., that was making a product that certainly looked similar. Changzhou was demonstrating its product at CES in Las Vegas, only to have the US Marshals raid its booth and seize all its products based on a 7 minute hearing in front a judge where Changzhou didn’t even get to present its side.

And now that Changzhou has attempted to present its side… Future Motion turned tail and ran, ran away. It flat out dropped the case once it was clear that Changzhou was going to challenge the lawsuit. In fact, Changzhou is so up in arms over this that it’s not accepting the case being closed and has asked the court to reopen the case so that it can seek attorney fees from Future Motion.

The filing by Changzhou is well worth reading. It accuses Future Motion of misleading the US Patent Office and the court, claiming that the lawsuit and the seizure were a combination attempt to stifle a competitor and get publicity for itself, and that this all helped Future Motion raise more money. It also says that Changzhou’s product, the Trotter, does not infringe on Future Motion’s patents. From the filing:

CES is the world’s largest electronics and technology show, and was a major opportunity for Changzhou to promote sales of its Trotter product. Instead, Future Motion orchestrated an effort to obtain a baseless TRO and to effect seizure of Changzhou’s products from CES. These acts caused Changzhou to lose sales and suffer public embarrassment at a critical juncture in marketing its new Trotter product. Indeed, Future Motion engaged in a significant media campaign to gain freee publicity from the fact that it wrongfully prevented Changzhou’s sales….

Moreover, Future Motion directly relied upon its baseless TRO to obtain additional financial backing for itself. On February 3, 2016, Future Motion announced that it had obtained $3.2 million in additional funding for its business…. One of the stated bases for obtaining that funding was that Future Motion “vigorously protects its Intellectual Property as it protects safety and a ride experience that cannot be replicated by knock-offs.”… Interestingly, Future Motion dropped this lawsuit against Changzhou on February 4, 2016 the next day after announcing it obtained the new funding.

It is now apparent that Future Motion’s actions were conducted with full knowledge that that the asserted patents… were non-infringed and invalid…. Future Motion undoubtedly sought the TRO and preliminary injunction with the expectation that Changzhou would not fight back in this litigation, and therefore would not discover the fatal flaws in Future Motion’s case. Unfortunately for Future Motion, Changzhou did fight back.

Changzhou filed an opposition to the preliminary injunction motion on January 29, 2016, explaining in detail that the two patents in suit were both noninfringed by Changzhou’s Trotter product and invalid in light of Future Motion’s own prior art (as well as the prior art of others), most of which was never disclosed to the United States Patent Office…. For example, with respect to Future Motion’s design patent, its “proof” of infringement consisted of a single sentence by the inventor, coupled with a few of the figures in the patent…. This was insufficient on its face, as a design patent must be construed and infringement evaluated based on all of the figures…. Further, with respect to Future Motion’s utility patent, the “proof” of infringement provided no claim construction analysis (which is required under Federal Circuit law) and relied on a conclusory claim chart…. Moreover, Future Motion baldly stated that it was aware of no anticipatory prior art to either patent, but it neglected to tell the Court about prior art disclosures of Future Motion’s own product and other similar products….

Upon reviewing Changzhou’s opposition and supporting declarations, Future Motion simply gave up, filing a voluntary notice of dismissal. Even then, Future Motion only offered to dismiss without prejudice despite the uncontroverted evidence that the patents in suit were non-infringed and invalid.

And this is why we’re supposed to have an adversarial process in court, folks. Whichever side you come down on, it’s ridiculous (1) that without even hearing the other side, the court simply ordered that the CES booth be raided and all products and other supplies be seized and (2) that the US Marshals got involved and seized the product.

Future Motion is claiming that it’s dropping the lawsuit because “it had been outgunned” and that following through on the court case would cost too much. But that’s ridiculous since it was Future Motion who filed the lawsuit in the first place. Those claims really do suggest that it filed the case for one reason only, which was to shut down a competitor, and then it also got a bunch of free publicity out of it. Maybe the company has a case, but if it wants to argue infringement it should have to make its case in court, not simply use the filing as an excuse to shut down and embarrass a competitor with no repercussions at all if the original claims were exaggerated or simply false.



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Comments on “Remember How US Marshals Seized All Those 'Hoverboards' At CES In A Patent Dispute? The Company Has Now Dropped The Case”

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39 Comments
Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trouble with "Talking Big"...

Ah… I see that you are not familiar with quote from Mao, and his Hundred Flowers Program:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Flowers_Campaign

Looks to be my fault on that one, added an extra 0 to my parody. Regardless, a lot of U.S. entities at an international level are going to be dealing with what folks in P.R. China have been suffering with for decades. It ought to make for some grand public theater.

JBDragon says:

Can we end this whole Hoverboard garbage! If it has Wheel’s it’s clearly not a Hoverboard. Call it a Self balancing Skateboard or whatever. Wheelboard!!!

It’s a dumb as so called Wireless charging that’s not wireless!!! If you have to physically place it on some type of device that’s plugged into a wall, it’s not wireless. That would be like saying the Wifi only worked on your phone when it was sitting on top of the router and calling that wireless!!! If you are going to call it wireless,it should work walking around a room or open space just like how Bluetooth and Wifi work. Even something as simple as IR. It may be line of site, but it’s still wireless.

Call it what it is. Mat Charging and Self balancing Skateboard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

and what’s annoying is that had I looked up the word hoverboard on Youtube or Google before this stupid thing came out I would have gotten something completely different. Now that this product took the name it has cluttered those other more relevant search results with this thing that’s not even a hoverboard.

Granted this is partly a search engine problem. Perhaps search engines should give me an easy way to omit this product from my search results to get what my search results would look like had this product not existed.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The gift of prophecy.
https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160108/09410533282/why-is-federal-government-shutting-down-ces-booth-over-patent-dispute.shtml#c322

“The cost to you is a tiny fraction of what you stand to make.”

There is a pox in this land of those able to bring cases, cause all sorts of harm & expense, and then use the power of without prejudice to walk away not owing anything for all of the misery caused.

The harm caused here will be wide ranging, and those who caused it… got paid and put ahead in business. They shifted perception & reaped the benefits filing a small pointless lawsuit could create. Courts can only repair actual harm, how does one calculate that in this situation?

IP there isn’t anything it can’t do, and perhaps its time to admit servicing it has gone way to far.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Make it hurt or don't bother

More than just legal fees Future Motion needs to be forced to pay extra on top of that, to compensate Changzhou for the PR black-eye they got, and the fact that they were forced to pull their booth at CES due to Future Motion’s actions. Just award legal fees, even if it’s all of Changzhou’s legal fees, and Future Motion still comes out ahead, as they managed to seriously screw over a competitor with minimal effort on their part.

Dragging them through court to invalidate the patents would be a nice act of returning the favor as well, and well deserved at this point.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Make it hurt or don't bother

That. Future Motion needs a severe beating, not just attorney fees. And the US Marshals, the judge who gave the order to the seizures too. This has to hurt for everybody or it will keep happening in the future.

As a side note, it’s almost shocking how the US went from leading innovation to lagging behind and litigating only…

David says:

Re: Re: Make it hurt or don't bother

That. Future Motion needs a severe beating, not just attorney fees. And the US Marshals, the judge who gave the order to the seizures too. This has to hurt for everybody or it will keep happening in the future.

None of those in the position to “make it hurt” are interested in stopping Chinese companies getting a gratuitous kick in their nethers in order to give U.S. business a prop-up.

This is a country where talking about summary execution of Muslim Mexican rapists like the Chinese are will make you lead the polls.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re: Make it hurt or don't bother

I suspect the judge was less “corrupt” than disinclined to believe the the plaintiff was so blatantly scamming the system — and him.

After all, judges tend to be hard on litigants who they find to be bald-faced, outright lying to them; they call it “perjury”, and mostly respond rather badly to it (unless, perhaps, you’re a police officer in an “excessive force” case).

Monday (profile) says:

Abuse of Patent Law... again...

You have wrote of this abuse so many times, I don’t even shake my head anymore – EXCEPT, with this one, today.

Can Changzhou really get Future Motion back in Court? I know nothing of these laws, and I’m wondering, no, I’m hoping that Changzhou can do this. This was an attack through the failing Trade/Patent Laws I’ve read of here, using Gov’t forces, to ‘kill’ competition – Foreign competition; CHINESE competition, that obviously has/presented a product that was a clear and present threat to any position Future Motion had in the Market. They received financial compensation through illegal malicious activity because of it.

I wonder how many; how much investor capital will be NSF when Future Motion tries cashing those cheques? You obviously don’t move that kind of money around in six weeks, especially when you’re involved in a legal dispute.

So again, my question is, “Can Changzhou get Future Motion back into Court? This could be ground breaking. A primer for future Corporate deceit.

China Hand says:

Well duh

I don’t see the misunderstanding here. They filed suit to go after a scummy IP stealing company when they dared to step onto the soil of a country that’s not a poisoned hellscape. Objective achieved. China refuses to accept any ruling by a foreign court, so the end result here would be nothing but lots of wasted time and money only for China to demand that it be redone in China, where even if you win you will see maybe $100k in damages awarded, while the company just changes names and goes right back to doing what it was doing and never bothers to pay the $100k anyways.

But I guess you don’t understand that if you actually are under the impression that China is not a shithole that needs to be banned from the world.

LBackover says:

awsome fun device

Not illegal in the US anymore, Future Motion dropped their lawsuit. You can get the Trotter for $890 delivered with a coupon at http://www.beep-boop.net, otherwise it’s $927. The owner told me the new fast shipping method costs more and pricing is definitely going up April 1. My kid got his in 8 days and loves it! Also the battery is completely enclosed in an aluminum cavity. This has to be the safest self balancing scooter on the market.

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