Big win for Segway in patent war against…everyone!

Ripping off a great idea that is well-protected by patents is a risky business practice.

China-based copycat companies have been blatantly stealing the technologies found inside Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) for several years. This week Segway Group hit back.


The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has struck a serious blow against China-based makers and US-based importers of copies/clones of Segway Personal Transporter-style devices, and against makers of many other types of self-balancing devices.

Thirteen companies singled out by Segway, Inc. have been dealt what probably amounts to a death blow.

But as Engadget explains, the ITC has also issued a powerful ‘general exclusion order’ that empowers US Customs to stop any “personal transporter” that infringes upon Patent No. 8830048 (one of Segway’s many, many patents) at the border, no matter what country it comes from.

According to Technews “Segway’s patent suit will probably ban hoverboard imports forever” and at the very least will have far-reaching consequences. This is because the patent extends to all kinds of self-balancing devices, even those without handlebars such as hoverboards. Indeed, in this patent’s section entitled ‘Detailed Description of Specific Embodiments’ it describes devices with as few as one wheel.  Thus, it would also appear to capture all ‘Electric Unicycle’ designs as well (for example, those currently being sold in New Zealand under brands such as Airwheel, Glideboard, Skywalker, Solowheel, etc):

Different numbers of wheels or other ground-contacting members may advantageously be used in various embodiments of the invention as particularly suited to varying applications. Thus, within the scope of the present invention, the number of ground-contacting members may be any number equal to, or greater than, one.

Some Personal Transporters
A selection of diagrams extracted from various ‘Segway’ patents


Segway, Inc.’s own press release about the ITC’s ruling can be found here.

More information about the lead-up to this outcome can be found in our article Big trouble begins for Segway copycats, and in several earlier articles linked therein.

Obviously, sales and exports of US-built Segway Personal Transporters are unaffected. Imports from China into USA of Segway miniPRO and Ninebot brand devices are also unaffected, as Ninebot is a subsidiary of Segway Group.

What this ruling means for American owners of infringing brands is that whatever after-sales support that may have existed could shortly very well dry up altogether.

Anyone in New Zealand considering buying a brand of self-balancing device singled out in the ITC’s ruling – FreeGo, Robstep, EcoBoomer, INMOTION, Roboscooter (sold in NZ as the Rooder/Chariot) – or in fact any brand of self-balancing device at all, might care to think through to the logical conclusions about what happens next in markets outside USA…

Our article about Segway patent protection in New Zealand can be found here.

Rethink: Segway – it’s a Brand, not a Product

Segway is a brand. It is not a product.

Here is a short video (with a sense of fun) that explains the difference.

Again: Segway is a brand.

There is no product known as “the Segway.” Never has been. Never will be.

Some examples of Segway products are:

  • Segway PTs or Personal Transporters, such as the i2 SE and x2 SE models
  • Ninebot PTRs or Personal Transport Robots, such as the Ninebot E+ model
  • Ninebot by Segway miniPRO – a new product that’s totally awesome, available to buy this month in New Zealand
  • Ninebot EUCs or Electric UniCycle, such as the Ninebot ONE E+ model
  • Segway RMPs or Robotic Mobility Platforms, such as the RMP 120, RPM 220, RMP 440 LE/SE/Flex Omni models
  • Segway APRs or Advanced Personal Robots, as showcased at CES 2016 for release later this year

Always remember, ‘Segway’ is not a generic term for all things self-balancing.

Segway, Inc. does not make, does not sell and does not endorse those “hoverboard” type devices (you know, those ‘balance board’ toys that were all the craze last Christmas, and have a reputation for catching fire in an excellent example of how a product segment can race itself straight to the bottom on build and component quality).

Segway New Zealand cannot repair your broken hoverboard. And no, of course we don’t stock replacement batteries for your hoverboard (in fact, we wouldn’t dream of keeping a pile of those kinds of batteries in our warehouse). But when your hover-toy stops working, you can replace it with a safe, easy-to-ride Segway miniPRO, or a full-sized Segway PT.

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