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
    tqk (profile), 10 Jan 2016 @ 2:21pm

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

    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.

    Pray tell, what's wrong with that? Who wants to deal with patent lawsuits? Nobody but patent lawyers. These guys want to sell consumer electronics, not enrich litigation lawyers.

    Look at some other markets, such as automobiles. There's Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, yada yada, and there's Volkswagen, Yugo, and Deus Chevau. Not everyone wants to pay every penny they have to drive a Rolls Royce. Lots of people just want basic transportation.

    Walk into any Walmart and you'll see very expensive, top of the line stuff from name brand manufacturers sold right along side with cheap crap that does the same thing but isn't sexy and wears out in no time doing the same job poorly. Is Rolls Royce hurt in any way by Yugos being sold to less discriminating, less wealthy patrons who'd never be able to afford Rolls Royce's price tag?

    Yet Future Motion has managed to get a patent and is using it as a club against those they perceive to be competition, and they get to use the full weight of law enforcement to implement a ban. Why would I want my tax dollars to go toward putting a system like that in place, to prop up entitled jerks who're afraid of competition?
    ... patents suck, right?

    Any law that can be used as a club to short circuit the free market is going to suck, so yeah. I very much prefer it when market forces control what happens, not blunt edged weapons like lawyers, judges, and regulatory powers. The former is far more democratic and works better in the long run. The latter just makes rich jerks with powerful connections richer and leaves the rest of us with disappointment.

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