When we think of hoverboards the first thing that comes to mind is Back to the Future. However, if you ask someone today, or at least someone who wasn’t brought up idolising 80s movies, then they’ll know that you’re referring to the self-balancing scooter. While this item has gone through many different names, such as swegways, and self-balancing boards, the term hoverboard is the most popular today. But who’s responsible for creating them?
That honour goes to Shane Chen. Or at least that’s one version of events. The story goes that Chen, an American businessman, filed a patent for a hoverboard device in 2013, proceeding with a Kickstarter campaign later in the year. However, the difference between inventing things and patenting is a hot topic and there have been many arguments about this over the years. Hangzhou Chic Intelligent Technology (more commonly known as Chic Robotics or Chic) hold various patents related to the hoverboard. More importantly, their “Smart S1” device was different to Chen’s “Hovertrax”, demonstrating that the Chinese company had invested time, effort and money into their own version of the hoverboard we see today.
As one of the big names in the business, we have to include Shane Chen and his patent for the Hovertrax. However, after all the difficulties that he had, such as the major product recall in 2016. Here’s an interview of Shane Chen conducted by the guardian. Shane states ‘He made no money from the hoverboard invention’, although the hovertrax was retailing for $1000 between 2015 and 2016.
We’ve looked at the most reputable and reliable companies with patents on hoverboards. The top of this list is Chic, who has become the ‘go to’ name when it comes to hoverboard production and manufacturing. They were responsible for the Smart S1which was released back in 2014. While it sold en masse in China, it had major success in Western countries due to the popularity with celebrities. Wiz Khalifa,Soulja Boy, Chris Brown, Jamie Foxx and Justin Bieber were just some of the celebrities who were not only using the hoverboards but were posting pictures and videos to their Instagram and other social media accounts, further increasing popularity and sales of the hoverboard.
Other big names include Razor, who sell the famous Razor brand of hoverboards. And a bit of trivia for you here – Razor entered an exclusive agreement with Chen, which obviously brought about more chaos when it comes to hoverboard patents (which we’ll address later on). Other recognisable patent holders are Ninebot,Segway and Swegway, all leading hoverboard brands in their own rights who enter the patent holding fray.
The problem with so many companies holding patents and the popularity of the product has only meant one thing. Feuds. There are more arguments, law suits and litigation cases in the world of hoverboards then there are battles in Game of Thrones!
When looking back at the creation of hoverboards, patent disputes have played a major part. And they still do today. One of the biggest disputes harks back to Chic and Shane Chen. While we may never know who created the hoverboard, we can see when companies filed patents but this doesn’t say who the original creator was. So obviously trouble was going to brew and in this case, Chen felt that Chic’s hoverboard was similar to his Hovertrax so decided to seek legal action. It was round about this time (2015) that Chen also entered into a patent licence deal with Mark Cuban. This gave him the opportunity to take legal action against Chic. However, it’s also worth noting that despite all this, many of the new Hovertrax boards provided in the first year of manufacture were defective. There was a high chance they could catch fire and this meant a major product recall was needed. No such problems for Chic though. So how similar were they really?
It didn’t take long for Chen to break off from Cuban but by then, another big name in the industry, Razor, had partnered with Chen’s company, Inventist, and still today you can see the Razor Hovertrax models. They then decided to take on the startup company, Ninebot, who was being accused of patent infringement and making ‘knock off’ versions of Chen’s products. Did you think the patent disputed ended there? You were wrong. Very wrong.
Segway, an old name in the personal transportation industry, owned a patent on a ‘load balancing vehicle’. So not only was Ninebot being sued by Chen and Inventist, but also by Segway! They avoided that by acquiring Segway in 2015. After that, Segway, or Ninebot, decided to sue Inventist for patent infringement; Razor sued Swagway (another company) and to get in on the action, Segway filed a trademark infringement against Swagway! Not done yet – Chic also sued Razor claiming that the Hovertrax infringed its design patents. As you can see, each company has a stake in the huge hoverboard market and holds varying patents which has led to many court battles between them.
Hoverboard history at a glance
The many patent disputes and releases of hoverboards can be confusing, so we’ve put them all into a simple timeline. Well, we say simple.
February 2013. Shane Chen files a patent for his hoverboard device
May 2013. Kickstarter campaign launched to gain funding for Hovertrax
Meanwhile in 2013-14 – Chic have held various patents related to hoverboards
August 2014. Chic’s Smart S1 was released and gained worldwide popularity
November 2014. Segway sues startup, Ninebot, claiming infringement on three of its patents
April 2015. Ninebot offered to invest in Chen and his company Inventist but it was refused. Instead, they acquired Segway
August 2015. Segway sues Inventist (Chen) for infringing five of its patents. Chic’s IO Hawk comes under scrutiny by Chen who sues for potential infringement. Meanwhile, Chen partners with Mark Cuban but after many troubles dissolves the partnership after just three months.
November 2015. Razor sues Swagway
December 2015. Segway files trademark infringement lawsuit against Swagway and patent infringement against Razor
May 2016. Chic sues Razor claiming that the Hovertrax infringe on one of its design patents
Where does Rolab fit in?
As you can see, in the background of hoverboard creation are a lot of feuding companies. However, the most legitimate ones, such as Chic, are known for creating reliable, robust and reputable hoverboards that stand the test of time.
Most hoverboards are manufactured in China and distributed by companies throughout the rest of the world. Each company claims to be the ‘first’ one to create the product but we’re not going to enter that argument. We believe that different companies obviously have created their own versions of the hoverboard and that’s why we’ve partnered with Chic, as they have one of the best reputations in the market.
At Rolab we work slightly differently. We have our own factory where we create our hoverboards but more importantly, we have authorisation from Chic for production. We told you we were avoiding any arguments!
With this, we are able to manufacture our own hoverboards to the highest of standards, following proven designs that have set the standard in the industry.
We can’t say for sure who created the hoverboard. What we can say though is that we made sure that we partnered with one of the top hoverboard creators in the business, to ensure that we can produce top quality products. We pride ourselves on our reputation for great customer service and more importantly, excellent products. Which we have managed to do with our Chic authorised hoverboards.