Why Is The Federal Government Shutting Down A CES Booth Over A Patent Dispute?

from the how-is-it-their-concern dept

One of the big stories coming out of CES this week is the bizarre situation in which US Marshals showed up here at the event yesterday and completely shut down the booth of a Chinese company, named Changzhou First International Trade Co. This happened after a judge granted a motion for a temporary restraining order, filed by US company Future Motion, following a seven minute hearing about the matter, in which Changzhou was not present and had no say.

To be clear, it does appear that Changzhou is building a knockoff of Future Motion's one wheeled self-balancing scooter thing -- a device that got plenty of attention via a big Kickstarter campaign. And, Future Motion does hold both a patent on a self-balancing skateboard (US Patent 9,101,817) as well as a design patent (US D746,928), which was just granted a few days ago, on a device that obviously looks quite a lot like what both companies are selling:
In other words, there's a fair bit of evidence to support that the patent infringement case is fairly strong. That said, it still seems quite troubling for US Marshals to then get involved and completely shut down Changzhou First International Trade Co.'s booth at CES right in the middle of the show, when the company doesn't get a chance to present to the judge until January 14th, long after CES has packed up and left town.

If there's a legitimate patent infringement case here, as there may well be (even though I'll have some more to say about patents in this space in an upcoming post...), it's still troubling that the company got shut down in the middle of the trade show and that it involved the US government intervening in what is a civil issue. This is certainly not out of the ordinary in general. Part of the job of the US Marshals is to execute seizures related to restraining orders that are ordered by federal courts. But it still seems like pretty massive overkill for a company that's just showing some scooters at a trade show, and where they haven't had a chance to present a defense.


Filed Under: ces, hoverboard, onewheel, patents, retraining order, seizure, us marshals
Companies: changzhou first international trade co., future motion


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  1. icon
    DB (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 3:59pm

    It costs well over $50K to operate a small booth at a trade show. In this case, a foreign company with a product demo at CES, it was likely substantially more.

    Future Motion crippled a competitor for only a few hours of lawyer time. Even if they lose their $10K bond (not especially likely), it's still a bargain.

    For those that doubt the $50K amount, ask anyone that has been in charge of a trade show. They will tell you that $50K might get you the smallest professional-looking booth and pay the expenses for staffing it. Then consider that it's CES, when everything 3x-5x the price if it can be had at all. Flights are at full fare, hotel rooms are at least 3x, rental cars are impossible to get, and services on the show floor are extremely expensive. It often costs more to move a crate from the loading dock to the booth location than getting it halfway around the world to the loading dock in the first place.

    To have all of this destroyed, with no notice, by a foreign government must be extremely frustrating. It must really look like protectionism and corruption.

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