Airwheel, a maker of two-wheeled and one-wheeled self-balancing personal transporters, is facing trial by jury for patent infringement in a US Court, according to papers filed in June 2016.
Segway, Inc. is suing Airwheel’s US, EU, Turkish and Chinese divisions for wilful infringement of key patents on which the operation of the iconic Segway Personal Transporter (PT) are based. Airwheel products sold in New Zealand that are named in this lawsuit include at least all Mars Rover models (e.g. Airwheel S3 and Airwheel S5):
Also named in this lawsuit are electric unicycle models sold in New Zealand under the Airwheel X3, X8, Q1 and Q5 names:
Segway, Inc. has also sued Californian retail business Hovershop and Arizona retail business Powerboard – both sellers of a range of infringing products.
Other companies sued in this lawsuit include Chic Robot and Smart Balance Board – both brands of hoverboard that are sold by retailers in New Zealand.
Where this will leave owners of these brands of products in months to come is unknown, but previous legal action by Segway, Inc. has already sent some manufactures in China out of business, according to China’s Global Times newspaper. For example, the managing director of Shenzhen Jomo Tech Co says:
Our production line has been shut down mainly due to patent disputes…we have stopped exports of self-balancing vehicles to the US and Europe.
Shenzhen Jomo Tech Co appears to have now turned its manufacturing resources towards e-cigarettes and vaporisers, leaving owners of their discontinued self-balancing devices high and dry, without ready access to parts, service or support in countries like New Zealand.
Segway New Zealand Limited has repeatedly warned (here and here, for example) importers and resellers of infringing self-balancing devices they may face legal action in this country. By targeting businesses located in the European Union and Middle East in its lawsuits, Segway, Inc. has indicated it has begun to expand legal actions wider and deeper to protect its intellectual properties.
We’ve also advised the public that sales, parts and support for infringing brands may suddenly disappear, leaving their investment effectively worthless. Dozens of local owners of cheap, badly designed and poorly built copies of Segway PTs sold in New Zealand under brand names such as Chariot, Freego, Robstep/Robin, Windrunner, Leadway, Skywalker, Smart Balance Board and others have contacted us about the problems they’re encountering – but this is something we’re unable to help with, sorry. We’ll cover this topic in more detail in a future article, but remember our view is that any full-sized self-balancing device with a handlebar that lacks redundant sub-systems is intrinsically dangerous to ride. It is only a matter of when – not if – it fails while you’re riding it. This can happen without any warning at all – most likely when you’re riding under heavy load (e.g. at high speed, or going up or down a steep hill). The instant the device stops self-balancing is the instant the rider falls. Just stop and think about this for a moment….and what it means for your health and safety.
Only Segway Personal Transporters have full redundant sub-systems to maintain self-balancing capability in the event of a critical component failure. The rider retains control and steering so they can reduce speed and come to a safe stop, then dismount.
Segway New Zealand can service, repair and supply parts for every Segway PT model we’ve ever sold, all the way back to the very first Segway HT i-167 unit we sold in 2003.