Most people have heard of a Hoover, but almost as many have now heard of a Dyson, too, as the brand has become synonymous with innovation in vacuum cleaning, and in other household products, too.
Dyson’s success – the company now has more than a third of the UK market for vacuum cleaners – has not been without conflict. One major factor in its advance has been make sure that its product innovations – in combination, the company’s intellectual property – were carefully protected.
Legend has it that James Dyson was inspired by the air extractor at a coating plant, and used this inspiration to create his famous cyclonic vacuum cleaner. The initial frustration that made him look for a new idea was how the efficiency of his regular vacuum cleaner decreased as dust filled its bag.
Dyson had the good sense to consult an experienced intellectual property (or IP) lawyer who advised him to ensure his new technology was patented. And, thanks to that important step, he was in the ideal position to be able to defend himself against a much larger rival, when they developed a product that looked remarkably similar to his cyclone vacuum. That rival was Hoover, who Dyson took to court in 2000 to sue them for patent infringement. It is understood the successful claim meant around $5 million in damages – but more importantly, it stopped Hoover and others from copying the Dyson design and ensured his leading design had no clear rivals in the marketplace.
Hiring a specialist IP lawyer as Dyson did will make sure you are informed about the best way to protect your intellectual property, whether through use of a patent, or another route such as registering a trademark or a copyright. It is vital to seek advice and take action early; had Dyson waited until his first model was selling well, he could have laid himself open to having his proprietary design copied, without any legal protection or comeback against those benefiting from the sales of a product with a similar design.
With patents, the rules of patentability are specified by the law, with certain discoveries disallowed from the process. These exemptions include items already existing in nature, scientific theories, and some diagnostic methods. And to qualify, a new product must be capable of actual manufacture; and it has to be obviously new.
Taking advice on your intellectual property from an experienced, qualified IP Lawyer is hugely important when considering whether a patent is the best way forward for you, as well as when making sure that you have filed the documents properly and so afforded yourself the best commercial protection. Taking the right IP advice could mean your invention turns you into the next James Dyson!