Shane Chen, inventor of the Hoverboard, marketed his design under the brand name Hovertrax, which sold for about $1,000. Cheap imitations, made in Chinese factories, have flooded the market at about one quarter of the cost.
“We only made maybe a few thousand,” Chen said. “I got a report that there are over 11,000 factories making them in China. They made more than a million.”
So he hasn’t gotten rich off his invention? “No, no,” he sighed. “If you look at history, inventors are usually poor. Other people make money. By the time we did the Hovertrax I was kind of used to it because there are about six of my inventions that have been copied over the past 10 years.”
The offices of his company, Inventist, in the small town of Camas, Washington, are littered with the carcasses of failed inventions that demonstrate Chen’s taste for trying to get people on the move. They include prototypes for various kinds of water craft, bicycles with odd limbs welded on, a cluster of cannibalised scooters and a device resembling a small first world war tank.