In the highly-competitive world of electric bike design, there are often originators and follow-on imitators. But when Himiway rolled out its new Pony micro e-bike a few months ago, the blurry line between imitation and inspiration seemed quite clear to JackRabbit, who alleges that Himiway ripped off the design of its popular electric micro e-bike.
JackRabbit landed on the micromobility scene around five years ago when it debuted a novel electric two-wheeler design.
Technically more of a “seated scooter” than a traditional e-bike due to the lack of pedals, the JackRabbit sports a bike-like seating posture on a shortened wheel-base and with a much more compact design.
The 24 lb (10.9 kg) weight and high maneuverability of the $999 micro e-bike rivals scooters, but the ride posture offers the comfort and stability of most e-bikes. And with a throttle-operated top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h) and an airline-approved battery allowing riders to fly with the bike, the JackRabbit quickly began racking up fans around North America.
After crowdfunding success and then a subsequent second generation product release, JackRabbit has developed a large and dedicated fanbase of riders who tout the funky little ride’s extreme convenience compared to both e-bikes and e-scooters.
And so you can imagine their dismay when the JackRabbit team awoke to see what looked like a nearly identical copy of the JackRabbit unveiled as part of rival e-bike company Himiway’s 2023 product line announcement less than two months ago.
Comparing the two side by side, it’s easy to see the similarities. While many e-bikes and e-scooters seem to display convergent evolution dictated by common trends in the industry, the JackRabbit went its own way with several key design features. The extremely short wheel base with truncated box tube frame, relatively large diameter wheels (for a small ride like this), folding foot pegs, and stubby handlebars all combine to create the unique look, ride and portability for which JackRabbit has become famous.
Based on Himiway’s apparent copy of much of the design, JackRabbit announced today that it has filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against Himiway for patent infringement and trade dress infringement. In its complaint, JackRabbit Mobility alleges that the Himiway Pony electric bike infringes the trade dress of its JackRabbit micro ebike under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) and infringes JackRabbit Mobility’s Design patent, No. D964,218, among other claims.
In the lawsuit, the JackRabbit team explains that they have been able to – “develop a product that, until copied by the Himiway Pony, is visually unlike any other product previously seen and that performs impressively well despite the appearance to some professionals in the bicycle industry that such a design would have performance problems. Up until now, this JackRabbit is the only vehicle that uniquely employs two 20-inch diameter wheels in a short wheelbase configuration and in which the rear wheel is electrically powered, uses fold-down foot pegs instead of operable pedals, utilizes a rectangularly shaped main frame area, and a single rear brake. Extensive ride testing and interviews occurred throughout the inventive process and for several years the JackRabbit was uniquely different from a product impression and performance standpoint.”
To be fair, I can attest to those claims from my own firsthand experience using the JackRabbit. I’ve even seen riders braver than I that have taken the micro e-bike off dirt jumps and performed other extreme stunts that I wouldn’t have believed the bike would have been capable of without seeing it in action.
Suffice it to say that the design may be unorthodox, but it has resulted in a highly capable and extremely portable little ride.
As JackRabbit’s CEO Jason Kenagy explained:
JackRabbit Mobility has taken this action today to protect and enforce its valuable intellectual property rights by bringing suit against those responsible for selling or offering to sell the Himiway Pony, which we believe infringes JackRabbit Mobility’s trade dress and Patent rights. This lawsuit seeks to stop Himiway’s infringement and provides notice to others that we will vigilantly protect our rights and will make use of any and all legal means to do so.
I have very little legal background (i.e. none whatsoever), and so I’ll let the courts decide the final outcome here. But as a fairly well researched and longtime member of the electric bike community who perhaps stands closer than anyone else to the title of having sat on the most e-bikes, it’s quite obvious to me that JackRabbit has a strong case here.
While there are subtle differences in the two designs, most come down to the fact that the JackRabbit simply has more features. In other words, it looks like the Himiway Pony is a JackRabbit copy, but that they just didn’t finish copying some of the cooler parts like the airline-sized battery or the way the handlebars clip onto the side of the frame to fold even more compactly.
I even stated as much in my original article about the Himiway Pony’s unveiling, so surely this won’t come as a shock to anyone.
I’ll be interested to see how this case is resolved, and we’ll be sure to update when we learn more.
In the meantime, check out this video of a skilled rider doing things on a JackRabbit that make my palms sweaty.
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