Chinese Ninebot buys US rival Segway

Whilst the British create a new sport.

Chinese vehicle maker Ninebot, who has been embroiled in a patent infringement suit with its global competitor Segway, seems to have found an innovative way to settle the case; it has bought its rival for an undisclosed amount, which should of course nix any attempts at further legal action.

Ninebot, the Beijing-based company, manufactures a two-wheeled electric vehicle on which riders stand and use body position to send commands via gyroscopes to the vehicle’s brain. The design and functionality was claimed to infringe a number of patents held by Segway, who was trying to gain an import ban against Ninebot in the US and Europe.

The value of the acquisition was not revealed but Ninebot did reveal that it had received US$80million in funding from smartphone maker, Xiaomi, and Sequoia Capital. In the same statement, the companies announced that both brands would continue to operate under their existing names.

“The acquisition creates a development opportunity for the short-distance transportation industry, which the combined company will lead by widely applying a series of technologies, such as electric driving, mobile internet and human-computer interaction on future products,” said Ninebot chief executive, Lufeng Gao.

Segway was founded in 2001 by Dean Kamen to much fanfare but it has struggled to become profitable or universally accepted, despite the potential for use as a cool urban transportation device.

Over at Rugby College in Warkshire UK, the legendary home of Rugby Union, the wacky students seem to have developed a new sport utilizing the Segway. The inaugural International Segway Polo Championship has just been played. Best described as a cross between horse polo and hockey, the event saw 16 teams competing in a two-day tournament using Segway’s instead of the more traditional horse (see the video here). The tournament was eventually won by the German entrants. Let’s face it; if the sport takes off and gains global appeal, then Segway may have sold out a bit early.

images: Ninebot; ISPA Facebook

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