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
    Whatever (profile), 9 Jan 2016 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Injunction against the world

    Does it take any longer than 7 minutes to decided that (a) the plaintiff appears to have cause (ie, they have a patent and the products look very similar in nature) and to see that the defendant has been contacted by lawyer letter and sent a cease and desist (ie, being served notice)?

    Again, it's not the judge making a detailed ruling on the validity of the patent or declaring the defendant to be infringing. It's about injunctive relief from a situation that would not be able to be undone.

    "why did Judge Du order service of the Summons and Complaint if defendant had already been served? "

    I used a word incorrectly, Mr Technical. They had contacted the Chinese via lawyer letter, a cease and desist, etc. The judge ruled on the injunction at the moment the suit was filed, which is why the judge ordered service.

    Put simply, the Chinese company wasn't blind sided - just hoping that they could do the trade show, make a bunch of sales, and go home to produce the product without having to deal with the patent issue. Once back in China, they could produce all they want with the protection of their weak legal system, and flood the market. Once the contacts are made at the trade show and orders secured, it would be very hard for the Patent holder to deal with each and every infringing seller, effectively rendering the patent moot. The Chinese company could also flood other markets with the product, essentially killing the value of holding a valid patent.

    I guess that explains why Techdirt is so upset... patents suck, right?

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