Death, Piers Morgan, Copyright Laws, and... Mall Cop?
Updated: Mar 21
(Image from here)
Have you seen the film Mall Cop? In one scene, the bumbling character Paul Blart crashes his Segway into a car. It was, of course, a stunt for entertainment only (do NOT try at home). But while the iconic Mall Cop was careering into objects for comedy, people were getting badly hurt by falling off them in real life.
Even the highly opinionated Piers Morgan claimed that he nearly died from falling off one. Many people laughed when they found out about the unfortunate accident, but Segways soon got a reputation - of being a joke, but also dangerous.
Piers Morgan may have escaped long-term injury, but Segway's own CEO, Jimi Heselden, didn't get off so lightly. In 2010, while on a scenic cliff-top Segway ride, he tragically lost control, and plummeted off the edge.
It seems darkly poetic that the CEO of a company, whose vehicle was notoriously unsafe, fell victim to its own product. Further depressing news was that the company wasn't even close to hitting its sales targets. But what's this got to do with our Asian culture blog?
Well, let me... segway... onto the Chinese company Ninebot. They made a remarkably similar vehicle to the infamous Segway. Yes, Segway had Worldwide patents to protect its intellectual property, but those copyright laws to a degree, get ignored in mainland China. Many companies mimic products from other firms in the west with little repercussion, even down to branding.
In China, you'll find plenty of fried chicken restaurants with names like KFD, KFG and DFD (image from here), all with a distinctive Southern-American gentleman in the logo (no prizes for guessing the original company!). Modern China leans more into the area of copying rather than innovation. This mindset even extends to buildings too: some well-known city skylines have been replicated life-size in China.
Now, Segway were very keen to take legal action against the copycat company Ninebot. They could ignore the lawsuit, but Ninebot had to act sooner or later.
So what do you do when a company files legal action against you?
A) Cease and desist (and invent your own products in the future);
B) Fight the lengthy court battle (it could take years, a lot of money, and if they lose, option (A) will happen anyway).
Well, Ninebot chose option (C): buy the whole company that's suing you... Bye-bye, lawsuit.
In 2015, Ninebot bought Segway for an undisclosed sum. Ninebot's bootleg version of the Segway was hugely appealing to the Chinese market: their product was even sold to the police for its potential to aid law enforcement. It seemed much more popular than the ill-fated original Segway.
With a good story, there are interesting lessons to be learned. The takeaways from this are:-
1) Segways are dangerous and should not be ridden up in high areas, or low areas, or even middle areas.
2) If you want to avoid a copyright lawsuit, why not straight-out buy the other company?
3) Piers Morgan and Paul Blart may have more in common than we thought: both are easy targets to poke fun at and both are
a liability on Segways.