The plot thickens:
While I was doing my laundry I was hearing a podcast on the origin of the hoverboard by the awesome folks at Planet Money:
http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/ ... board-life
So it turns out (go listen if you don't like spoilers), that the influx of hoverboards, ( I think they should be called zoomers) is a bit of a watershed moment in how products come to life, the process is something along this lines:
1. A western company innovates (segway)
2. An inventor tries (unsuccessfully) to build on this innovation
3. Chinese engineers use excess capacity and homebrew technology to bring to market a facsimile in an open source way, they copy the essence of the product, but adapt it to what their factories can do and change the design in order to circumvent or at least delay infringing patent litigation.
It is both fascinating and a little troublesome, not sure the current patent system is up for the task or whether this will be the norm rather than the exception in the future....
Edits: added the patent bit to point 3.