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Feds Block Some Hoverboard Imports Over Segway Patent

The International Trade Commission has blocked the import of certain hoverboards into the U.S., citing a patent owned by Segway.

[Photo: Lenscap Photography via Shutterstock]

The U.S. International Trade Commission has barred imports of hoverboards covered by a patent issued to Segway creator Dean Kamen.

Segway, and Kamen's company DEKA Products, filed a complaint with the commission back in 2014, asking the commission to ban imports into the U.S. of hoverboards that the companies said infringed a number of patents covering Segway's iconic two-wheel transporters.

And on Wednesday, the ITC, which has the power to restrict imports that infringe on intellectual property rights, announced it was issuing a ban on "personal transporters" covered by a patent on "control of a personal transporter based on user position."

While Segway named 13 specific companies in the U.S. and China that it said were infringing its rights, it asked the commission to bar all infringing hoverboards, not just those from the specific manufacturers.

"The Commission has determined that a general exclusion order for entry for consumption is necessary to prevent circumvention of an exclusion order limited to products of named persons and because there is a pattern of violation of [import laws] and it is difficult to identify the source of infringing products," the ITC wrote.

Hoverboards, which are often made by fly-by-night manufacturers in China, have already been banned from several U.S. airlines, transit systems, retailers, and colleges over fears that their batteries could catch fire. In January, Amazon began offering refunds on all hoverboards sold through its site, in response to safety concerns.

The Department of Transportation recently warned that of 32 cargo containers intercepted, more than 80% didn't have proper documentation that their lithium batteries were safe to transport.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also warned of the danger of the devices, telling consumers that even hoverboards that claim to be UL certified may be dangerous, since the safety group doesn't actually certify hoverboards.

"Have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards in and around your home," CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye advised in January.

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