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Chinese Counterfeits Result in No Payday for Hoverboard Inventor

The inventor of the hoverboard hasn’t made money from his creation due to patent infringement. (Image:   Ben Larcey via flickr /   CC BY 2.0 )
The inventor of the hoverboard hasn’t made money from his creation due to patent infringement. (Image: Ben Larcey via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

If something becomes too popular, patents are of no use in stopping cheap knockoffs being made in China, says the inventor of the hoverboard.

Four years ago, Shane Chen made and patented the original hoverboard, which he called the hovertrax. The two-wheeled toy took some time to gain traction in the market place, until last year when sales for his invention went through the roof.

Only problem is, they weren’t his sales.

“When you have a product that sells a few, you can easily stop the knockoffs,” Chen told The Guardian. “When the product becomes too valuable, there’s nothing you can do,” he said.

“It’s like a tsunami. Legal or illegal, they’re just going to do it. It’s like drugs, marijuana,” said the inventor who left China to live in the U.S. three decades ago.

Watch this video made by Guardian Science and Tech about Chen, his hoverboard, and some of his other inventions such as the Solowheel:

Chen’s hovertrax was on sale for around $1,000. The lower quality knockoffs — which also get called self-balancing, two-wheeled scooters — cost much less to make, and were subsequently cheaper for consumers to buy. Many of the cheap copies were also unsafe, which eventually put a dampener on sales.

But, in the U.S. Chen saw big retailers selling the knockoffs, in effect aiding the counterfeiters.

Just before Christmas, Chen even made a trip to China to see what he could do to address the counterfeiting.

“I visited some of the knockoff factories. They actually thanked me for having the imagination to invent it,” he said. “They understand they’ve infringed my patent, but they know there’s nothing I can do.”

Watch this China Uncensored  video, which shows a list of the top ten Chinese knockoffs of foreign products:

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