Bed Bath & Beyond has begun to sell hoverboards from its website, wading into the market for a white-hot toy that is fraught with legal risk.
The home goods retailer, better known for bedsheets and kitchen wares than self-balancing scooters, is selling what is calls a "ROAM Hoverboard Electric Scooter" for $500. The company splashed an image of the hoverboard on the cover of a recent catalog, claiming, "THEY ARE GOING FAST," and directing customers to shop for them online.
Selling hoverboards is tempting for any retailer — they are easily the hottest toy of the season, catching fire on social media earlier this year with videos of rappers and athletes riding them — but several that have tried have since backed away or revised their plans due to unresolved legal questions over patents. Walmart scrapped plans to sell hoverboards online for the holidays, while Target went through a stop-and-start process before finally offering a hoverboard online for $500.
The latest development in an ongoing legal squabble over hoverboards came just days ago, when Razor USA, which has a patent for a “a two-wheel, self-balancing personal vehicle,” sued the hoverboard distributor Swagway for patent infringement.
Representatives of Razor and Bed Bath & Beyond did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In addition to the patent issue, hoverboards have been dogged by questions over safety. They can be tricky to master and have resulted in more than a few wipeouts. Liability for any injuries can be an open question in some cases, particularly with the flood of boards sold through informal sales channels.
The Bed Bath & Beyond website describes the hoverboards as good for use in an urban environment.
"Safely weave though city streets and sidewalks, confidently explore your neighborhood, or easily cruise boardwalks in attention-grabbing style with the ROAM Hoverboard Electric Scooter," the website says.
BuzzFeed News was alerted to this news by a tip from the father of this reporter. He sent the above image of the cover of the Bed Bath & Beyond catalog.
- Robert Alden contributed to this article
William Alden is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. Alden covers the technology industry.
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