At this point, anyone who follows a rapper or pop star on Instagram has probably seen said celebrity atop one of those two-wheeled hoverboard-like thingys. Everyone from Justin Bieber to Chris Brown to Meek Mill tools around (emphasis on the “tool”) on the self-balancing devices. And Wiz Khalifa was recently wrestled to the ground by police after failing to dismount his at LAX.
There are a number of companies that make the products, such as PhunkeeDuck, HoverWalker, and HoverTrax, but the technology that propels all of them is quite similar to another not-cool mobility device, the Segway, and that doesn’t make Segway very happy. The company filed a lawsuit in Delaware last Friday against Inventist, makers of the $1,500 HoverTrax. The suit alleges that Inventist violated Segway’s patent related to “balancing vehicles and methods for transporting individuals over ground having a surface that may be irregular.” Segway is seeking an injunction that would stop Inventist from selling any more of its devices.
Inventist, which was founded by Shane Chen and calls itself “A Mark Cuban company,” has patents of its own for the two-footed control of the HoverTrax and has used them as a basis for filing suit against other companies it deems to be producing knock-offs of its product. Those patents could serve as a defense against Segway, which never lived up to the hype after it was released in 2001 and is now primarily seen under the feet of packs of tourists and mall cops.
HoverTrax is also mounting a social media defense. Its one and only Instagram post, is a clip of a cameraman atop a Segway taking out sprinter Usain Bolt.
If we’re lucky, perhaps the courts will decide that both devices are lame and make people just walk.