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Patent Battle May Loom Over 'Copenhagen Wheel' Electric Bike 152

Posted by timothy
from the kumbaya-my-lord-kumbaya dept.
curtwoodward writes "Nearly four years after the concept was introduced, MIT spinout Superpedestrian has started selling its $700 'Copenhagen wheel' kits that promise to turn any old bike into an electric-powered, smartphone-connected dynamo, simply by swapping out the back wheel. But they're not alone: a competing startup called FlyKly has already raised $700,000 worth of pre-orders for a similar device. Superpedestrian, which holds exclusive license to the MIT patents covering the Copenhagen wheel, clearly thinks there's some foul play going on. 'Their founder actually dropped by our lab at MIT a year and a half ago, saying he wants to collaborate, and spent quite some time with the Copenhagen wheel team. We'll leave it at that,' Superpedestrian founder Assaf Biderman said."
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Patent Battle May Loom Over 'Copenhagen Wheel' Electric Bike

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  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @02:50PM (#45586715)

    The funny thing is you're the one that looks like the snob here, not the "hipster" you're having a go at.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @02:59PM (#45586807)

    From the article:

    Superpedestrianâ(TM)s products: those red-disc equipped rear bike wheels, housing a sophisticated battery-powered drive system built with U.S.-made parts that can connect to the Internet to learn about its ownerâ(TM)s riding habits.

    Fuck no.

  • Re:Why Bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:14PM (#45586977)

    The problem with electric bikes is that it doesn't fix the root problem, which is, that the person is out of shape.

    Electric bikes with throttles won't. But electric assist does require some effort, and thus will help the unfit to get fitter.

    It's all very well saying that an unassisted bike will get a person fit, but that will never happen if the person feels they are too unfit to get started. And whilst you might say they can start with short distances, most people want to cycle to commute, and that is a fixed distance.

    And don't forget that many people will live in terrain that's hillier than where you live.

  • Re:Why Bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:20PM (#45587039)

    4. When sharing a road with other traffic, you are safer the closer you are in speed to that traffic. Electric assist can help an otherwise slow rider to be closer to the speed of other traffic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:47PM (#45587331)

    Personally, I haven't seen one with the batteries built into the hub before.

    Kind of like adding: "on a computer" to an existing idea to create a bright shiny patentable idea. If putting batteries in the hub poses some particular challenge that they invented a particular solution for, then yeah, that solution should be patentable. But by itself "putting the batteries in the hub" should be a poster child for not-patentable.

    I haven't seen one where you set a speed target, such that the cycle helps below that speed, and regenerates when going over that speed.

    Again, all obvious ideas. If there is some amazing tech that enables these things then sure, patent that. But not the "invention" of cruise control for bicycles.

  • Re:Why Bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:07PM (#45587565)

    Plenty of people live in places with hills steep enough to make them need to get off and push. Battery assist can make the uncyclable hill cyclable

    The only "uncyclable" hill is one where the bike tips over backwards. Otherwise, the real problem is that the gearing isn't low enough (or more likely, that the rider isn't strong enough or doesn't know how to shift properly).

  • Re:Why Bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gma i l .com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:19PM (#45587739)

    I live in Seattle. If the hill that my house is on were in the Midwest they'd put a ski resort on it. I finally had to give up biking to work because with my asthma I couldn't handle the damn hill home.

  • Where's the story? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krazy Kanuck (1612777) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:19PM (#45587749)
    So we have a link to a story about Company A who has exclusive license to use BigShot school's patents to make a fancy wheel and at the end of the article the reporter asks Company A whats they think about Company B's simliar product. The CEO says "Company B CEO came by 18 months ago wanted to co-lab, hung out and left, but I haven't looked at his patents" and we're slashdotting "impending legal doom", yet neither side has said boo to that nature or is there any other relevant link to anything remotely newsworthy. Where's the story?
  • Be reasonable... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:43PM (#45588119)

    No, there are hills that are just reasonably uncycleable.

    Here in San Francisco, you could be a Tour-de-France rider and not be able to make it up some of the streets, which are well over 30 degree gradients 300m or more in length. There's a couple of streets near my house that approach 40 degrees, and which make walking up them very difficult (they have stairs specifically for that purpose, but walking up the normal street is quite difficult). Maintaining balance at that angle-of-attack on a bike is really hard to do, and, even with extremely low gearing, there is a minimum amount of forward progress per pedal rotation that has to be done to keep the gyroscopic stability needed to keep from falling over sideways.

    When it's really not possible for any human being to use any commonly-available bicycle to ride the hill, it's "uncycleable". A hill that can't be ridden by 99% of the public is de facto "uncyclable".

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"