French startup eBikeLabs sued Cowboy bike manufacturer for patent infringement because of their latest feature AdaptivePower. The former accused the latter of copying their technology, but the latter denies the allegations. Instead, Cowboy claims that eBikeLabs is trying to damage its reputation in the market after it ended the contract. The dispute has now turned into a ebikelabs vs cowboy patent suit between the famous consumer brand cowboy and the startup eBikeLabs.
A French startup eBikeLabs that has been working on embedded software for e-bikes sued Cowboy for patent infringement. The claim is that Cowboy copied eBikeLabs technology in its latest feature, AdaptivePower. The Belgian electric bike manufacturer Cowboy refused all these allegations and even said that eBikeLabs is trying to tarnish the company’s image. Now, a small start-up and a popular consumer brand that wants to protect its reputation are in an e-bike patent suit.
Operational since 2015, eBikeLabs began by building its own e-bike hardware controller that could be used by multiple e-bike manufacturers. However, even after a public grant from the French Environment and Energy Agency, the product remained on paper only.
Then in 2021, eBikeLabs and Cowboy signed a wide-reaching contract for which an email was also sent by co-founder and CEO Maël Bosson of eBikeLabs to the company’s shareholders who participated in the crowdfunding campaign. After this eBikeLabs became an outsourced R&D group for Cowboy based on some strict exclusivity mentioned by eBikeLabs. According to this, the company had only one client and financial partner and shortly after that eBikeLabs laid off its marketing and sales team due to this contract.
The company started working on the controller firmware for the next generation Cowboy bikes. With custom-made firmware eBikeLabs could release software features for the drivetrain and overall, it was like working on a field adaptation algorithm. With this technology, power levels of the motor are automatically controlled depending on the wind condition or current slope.
In 2022, Cowboy terminated its contract with eBikeLabs for which there possibly could be several reasons. As per the contract, it was possible on Cowboy’s end to work freely on other projects or with other suppliers. But eBikeLabs was bound to work exclusively with Cowboy. After the contract ended, Cowboy had two choices: start negotiating a new contract with eBikeLabs and license its technology, or it could send away all their work done and part ways.
But before February 2022 and long before this e-bike patent suit, Cowboy had the chance to test that feature on their bikes and eBikeLabs shared their 4th progress report which is a Zoom meeting, about their work for Cowboy.
Talking about the field adaptation algorithm, CTO of eBikeLabs, Colin Valière said, “This is really one of the main features expected in the [Cowboy 5]. It’s already up and running. Of course, there is much work to do before it’s completely final, but we have tested it again today and it works.”
But in March 2023, with a new feature AdaptivePower, Cowboy released a software update that has the same features of adjusting motor power depending on slope and weather conditions. Thus, AdaptivePower becomes the center of the dispute because eBikeLabs claims it to be their technology that is being used. In an email sent to company’s shareholders, CEO Maël Bosson of eBikeLabs wrote, “We decided to sue Cowboy for patent infringement, infringement of our know-how and unfair competition.”
On 11-April-2023, Cowboy sent a letter to the lawyers of eBikeLabs stating that the technology in AdaptivePower is developed independently of eBikeLabs technology. eBikeLabs filed for patent in January 2022 but the process takes 18 months which is why it has not yet been published by INPI.
To this Cowboy co-founder and hardware director Karim Slaoui asked moments later, “You mentioned patents there, could you a bit explain your protection strategy?” which further added drama to this e-bike patent suit.
eBikeLabs CEO Maël Bosson said, “Yes, so we applied for a first patent for this technology. Our strategy was to protect this way of doing [it] because we believe it’s the best way to do it, intuitive[ly], which is of course of very high value.” According to him, it is difficult to get an intuitive ride feeling and the data from controller is not always accurate.
Cowboy’s Engineering Project Manager for the powertrain, Laurent Etorre asked a follow-up question regarding the patent strategy of eBikeLabs, “I have one question about the patent. Would it be easy to detect any infringement? Because one of the difficulties of the patent is to be able to prove that there is an infringement.”
CEO Maël Bosson of eBikeLabs answered to this, “If you are a competitor and you want to try to do something similar, and you see that someone has patented it, you might think that you will not start because you will have a high risk.”
However, at the time of AdaptivePower release, Tanguy Goretti, Cowboy’s CTO and co-founder posted on LinkedIn, “I’m super proud of the team behind that project.” Then a list of 16 names was added of those who recently worked or are working with Cowboy as the e-bike patent suit continued.
It is the reason why Cowboy decided to sue eBikeLabs for disparagement. A spokesperson for Cowboy said in an emailed statement, “Cowboy refutes all the allegations made by eBikeLabs in their leaked email and should a formal suit be brought, will be formally challenged by Cowboy.”
Also Read: VanMoof Vs Cowboy E-Bike Comparisons
What is AdaptivePower?
Until now, the previous technology detects changes in cycling speed and human pedaling power. It is the newest innovation in e-bike technology that allows Cowboy C4 and C4ST e-bikes to think of themselves and adapt to riding conditions. It detects changes in elements like inclination of the slope, additional weight, and headwind to modulate the amount of power needed to maintain the flow and speed of the bike. It is available from firmware version 4.17.0 onwards.
Do AdaptivePower have an impact on battery?
No, it does not have any direct impact on the battery. The battery consumption on a flat road will be the same as before but battery range can vary depending on the rider’s riding condition. The expected range is between 40 kilometers and 80 kilometers, which is influenced by a number of factors.
With AdaptivePower the company introduced a power saving setting that is managed through a phone application. While power output remains the same, battery range could increase by an average of +25% with this setting.
Why only C4 and C4ST have this new feature?
C4 is the most recent generation of e-bikes and became the first to receive this update. The company plans to add this feature to other models also.
Source: Tanguy Goretti LinkedIn post