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. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 9 Jan 2016 @ 5:14am

    Why Not Abolish The Design Patent

    Design patents are aesthetically obsolete. Nineteenth-century (Victorian) designers followed much the same line as nineteenth century architects. They borrowed massively from the past, often from several different periods at once. Items had a lot of physical decorations. This is the kind of thing which Sigfried Giedion talked about in _Mechanization Takes Command_. A design patent was meant to give protection to, say, a knife or fork with an elaborately decorated handle.

    In our own time, however, the trend is towards styles of work which have essentially no inherent ornamentation, and which are designed in the most efficient possible fashion. If you want ornamentation, you paint on a picture, or attach a picture. This is most perfectly expressed in the "nose art" of military aircraft. Flying at 1500 mph, there is absolutely NO room for decorative pieces of metal, but there is a long tradition of painting pictures of pretty girls on the cowling. I have a picture of a RAF Tornado fighter-bomber, circa 1990, named "Mig-Eater," with a picture of a shark, in 1930's bathing-beauty pose, eating a Russian Mig fighter-jet. Similarly, in architecture, very modern architecture could co-exist with mural-painters such as Diego Rivera, who were not at all modern, at least not in the sense that a leading architect, someone like Walter Gropius, would have used the term. The building had a big concrete wall, which the artist could paint whatever he wanted on. Such a painting can be copyrighted like any other painting, and subjected to appropriate fair-use tests. For example, photographing a mural on the side of a building, and printing the picture in a magazine, should be fair use, but copying the picture onto the side of another building should not be.

    Ref: Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History, Oxford University Press, New York, 1948.

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