Chinese startup Ninebot, a transportation robotics firm, has bought out Segway Inc., the American maker of the world’s most recognizable mall-cop scooter, for an undisclosed amount of money.
The real kicker is that less than a year ago, Segway Inc. accused Ninebot of violating its patents for their signature electric two-wheel scooter — Ninebot basically makes Chinese Segway knockoffs and claimed that they independently owned their intellectual property. Now they own the company that their whole business model is based off of.
Ninebot’s acquisition follows a recent $80 million investment round led by Xiaomi, the world’s most valuable startup, and prominent Silicon Valley investment firm Sequoia Capital, among other investors, according to Reuters.
According to Time, the two companies will operate under separate brands under a “strategic alliance.”
“Still, the Ninebot-Segway deal makes a lot of sense as it relates to China. Ninebot and its backers want to put an end to not only the copyright feud with Segway, but also to a larger, nationwide controversy that Segway called China’s ‘widespread pattern of infringement’—or what’s also been labeled ‘copycat China.’
“ ‘Today it’s not just copycat China,’ Sequoia Capital partner Neil Shen said during Ninebot’s announcement in Beijing. ‘China will expand, through its own innovations and through acquisitions.’ “
What Shen probably wanted to say was that Chinese companies will expand by copying other people’s innovations, profit off of China’s massive market and then buy out the original company to eliminate any problems.
So the lesson is that even if you steal other people’s work, throwing money at it will make everything better.