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Intellectual Property in China
Written by Shane Chen I came to the US from China almost 32 years ago. I created a business named  CID, Inc.  and started inventing and making scientific instruments for plant physiology scientists. It was a nice, but small niche market.  There were no patent infringements except from one company in the UK. My life was peaceful. Then I started inventing consumer products for my new company,  Inventist Inc.  That was about 16 years ago. As soon as I started introducing my new products into the market I started dealing with knockoffs from China that impacted my business. So far, 7 of my inventions have been copied and sold worldwide. The popular ones are: a 3-wheeled scooter that I licensed to Razor scooters called the Powerwing. The Solowheel, an electric one wheeled vehicle you may have seen people riding around in the streets on. And the extremely popular hoverboard. But the ones that have caused fires are not mine. In fact, you probably have never seen mine: the original hoverboard called the Hovertrax which I later licensed to Razor.  99% of the hoverboards you have seen are illegal knockoffs. Based on a Chinese government report, there were over 1000 hoverboard makers who exported 4.6 billion dollars of hoverboards in 2015. The number didn’t go down in 2016 or 2017. For the 7 infringed inventions, I successfully sued many factories in China in the past 16 years. So, the Chinese patent system is working. The government has been trying hard to protect intellectual property. Things are improving every year. Now they have added specific intellectual property courts in the major cities. My last case was in an intellectual property court. I heard that the penalties will be increased on infringers. For the products that are not too popular, the problems were solved after I sued a few infringers. But for the popular products it has not worked. The problem is that there are too many infringers. You know China is the largest product maker. All of the factories are constantly seeking products to make. You can sue a few but there are many more. Often, when you win a lawsuit and shut the factory down, they will reopen again with a different name. Two Chinese judges on two different cases talked to me on the phone to explain the situation in China. They advised me to help create jobs by licensing to the factories instead. I realized it’s impossible to stop all of them by suing. For a legal system to work we must assume most people obey the law. You can imagine if half the citizens don’t follow the law in our community, our police simply cannot protect the rest of us. It becomes a war, which is what I am facing in China for intellectual property. However, I am not saying that half the Chinese factories don’t follow the intellectual property law. It’s just that they don’t understand it. For one thing, many of them are confused about the definition of “inventorship”. I’ve met a factory owner who said, “our engineers didn’t copy your product, we only saw your Hovertrax Kickstarter project and then created the same on our own.” Also, someone showed me a Chinese news broadcast talking about a young inventor who invented the electrical one-wheel vehicle. They reported that the he saw my Solowheel on the web and then he created his own. So, he is considered an inventor of Solowheel, too. Furthermore, much of the Chinese public don’t know that stealing intellectual property is a crime. I’ve also found out that most factories don’t even know where inventions come from. They make something because they see their neighbor is making it and figure that it must make money, so they copy the copies. I don’t know if you have heard this, but often in one area or town, everybody makes the same thing. I saw a town where everybody makes ties. 80% of the ties made in China come from there. The tie you are wearing today may have come from there. In another town, everybody either does aluminum extrusion or makes lingerie. And, the 1000 hoverboard makers are mostly in two cities. So, whether it’s a tie, lingerie or the hoverboard, they just want to make whatever their neighbors are making to be sure they can make money. When Amazon froze all the hoverboard factory accounts, lots of people protested in front of the Amazon building in China with signs that said, “give us back the money from the blood and sweat of our labor”.  Someone told me that I was destroying the Chinese hoverboard industry if I sued. So, they only see the value of the product they made from their hard work. They are missing the fact that the idea of the product must come from someone.  I started to realize that in China, intellectual property is still a relatively new concept. And it will take time for the Chinese people to understand and respect intellectual property. In fact, the US and many other countries went through similar issues when their patent systems started. I’ve even gone through this process myself. After coming to the US I was hired to design agricultural instruments. The first thing I proudly said to my boss was that I could redesign any of those instruments in the market. Make them cheaper. Sound familiar? Instead he asked me if I could design something new, something better. After I started my own business, I bought a competitor’s instrument and asked my engineer to reverse engineer it, so we could use the technology for part of our own product. Even though there was no patent on that product, he was reluctant to do it. I have to say living in America changed the way I think. After my own inventions were on the market, I never again wanted to make anything that other people had made before. The creative culture of America helped me become creative, too. You can imagine that if I had stayed in China, I might have become one of the most successful copiers! I believe Chinese companies want to do the right thing. It’s a learning process and China will get there some day. I can already see the difference from a few years ago. Many factories now ask me to license to them. It’s a step in the right direction. We have a great country and we should also try to understand others that are working their way up to our level of understanding. My conclusion is that enforcement is often necessary and effective, but if you have a popular consumer product, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to sue everyone who copies it. Consider using the money to invest in more marketing and branding, and use your patent to support them. If your product is good, it will get copied, but don’t let it discourage you. Keep inventing.
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But First, The Purple Board
Ever wonder how the popular hoverboard came to be? While at a trade show to showcase the Solowheel, Ywanne got bored and decided to ride two Solowheels at the same time. While watching her, Shane got a crazy idea. He decided he was going to make another personal rideable, this time with two wheels. He started with a sketch of a single board with the wheels tucked up inside, so it gives the allusion of hovering as you ride. He then created a working prototype and dubbed it The Purple Board. Unfortunately, the wheels were too small for the size of the board. So, Shane went back to the drawing board. After a few trial and errors, Shane decided to move the wheels to the outside of the board and to redesign the board to allow more independent balancing on each wheel. This also allowed the board to be more responsive to the rider during turns. This new design became the widely recognized Hovertrax design of 2013.   We’ve come a long way from those early Purple Board days. From the technological advances of the parts we use to learning how to develop rideables that are lighter, faster and more stylish. Our newest rideable, the IOTAtrax ( www.iotatrax.com ), is a perfect example! With a weight of only 15lbs and speeds up to 10 mph, this little rideable is set to be the next big thing. Pre-order yours today for only $499! But hurry, the pre-order sale ends February 28, 2018.
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IOTAtrax takes home “Top Tech Award—Rideables” at CES
“The IotaTrax is far more compact and portable than any hoverboard you’ll find.” —Digital Trends PRE-ORDER NOW ($499 Until Feb 28th) One week before CES, we didn’t have any plans on attending. No booth, no media appointments, no preparation for the event whatsoever. In fact, our prototypes were still in production. Then a few days before the event we got word that we had three prototypes on the way. A couple long and tiring days later we were in Las Vegas.. And it couldn’t have gone much better. Early day 1, we were already making appointments for sneak peaks and early looks at Shane Chen’s latest creation. By the end of day 1, we had already met with Digital Trends, had an in-depth product review, were catching the eyes of everyone we passed and were reading an incredible review of the IOTAtrax. PRE-ORDER NOW ($499 Until Feb 28th) If you don’t already know, Shane Chen, the inventor of the IOTAtrax, was also the inventor of the original hoverboard (Hovertrax). Not the low-quality copy cats that never seem to go away, but the first one. He’s also the original inventor of the Solowheel. Now he’s back for round 3 with his latest innovation and the next step in rideables—the IOTAtrax. Shane took what he learned from the Hovertrax and Solowheel to arrive at what he feels is the perfect balance in rideables—something that is not only super easy to maneuver on, but also comfortable to cruise along on at higher speeds for long distances. Its also super compact and light, which makes it easy to take it with you when you’re not riding. And because its so compact and low to the ground, it’s a cinch to learn. CES was our official launch and we’re so excited we were able to make it happen. We’re currently taking pre-orders at IOTAtrax.com until February 28th, when the we will start shipping. Retail is $599, but all pre-orders will only cost you $499. Happy Riding 😊 Read the awards show article here PRE-ORDER NOW ($499 Until Feb 28th) PRE-ORDER NOW ($499 Until Feb 28th)
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