Segway bought by former patent spat adversary Ninebot

Chinese firm uses Xiaomi backing to Gingerly move into American markets

Ninebot, the company Segway recently tried to sue, has bought Segway thanks to a cash injection from mobile and media company Xiaomi.

Beijing-based Ninebot makes a range of one and two-wheeled personal transporters, but in the past has claimed to be different to Segway in that Ninebot products will work for people who fall under the minimum weight requirements of a Segway. This didn’t stop Segway citing (PDF) Ninebot among the dozen companies which it sought to litigate against for patent infringement.

Xiaomi – along with venture capital firm Sequoia Capital – recently invested $80m in Ninebot.

Segway was founded by eccentric inventor Dean Kamen, who specialises in medical devices such as an improved stent and insulin pumps. The Segway grew out of the iBot stair-conquering wheelchair. This led to the codenames Fred and Ginger for the iBot and Segway respectively, because iBot was “Fred upstairs”.

Despite selling Segway to Summit Strategic Investments in February 2013, Kamen remains the patent holder and worked with SSI to litigate against the companies selling Segway clones.

Before the launch of the “Ginger” Personal Transporter, it was rumoured that Kamen was working on something to revolutionise transport systems on the planet. What we got was a £6,000 21st-century C5, which was illegal to use on both the pavement and the road, but which gained a fanboi culture all of its own.

The Segway is a tour-de-force of technology, with advanced gyro-stablisation from BAE Systems. While it has failed to revolutionise transportation systems, it has found favour with a number of police forces. Segway recently launched a three-wheeled scooter aimed particularly at the donut-munching market.

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Some of the original Segway engineers are now working on the Copenhagen Wheel which replaces a standard bicycle wheel with one containing a motor and Bluetooth control. ®

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