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The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"The court is still to decide what action to take against hoover"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Dyson wins Hoover case
James Dyson with one of his bagless cleaners
James Dyson, with one of his bagless cleaners
Domestic appliance giant Hoover has suffered a humiliating defeat by rival Dyson in the High Court.

The court ruled that Hoover copied Dyson's designs in the manufacture of its Vortex bagless cleaner range.


Why on earth don't they (Hoover) think of their own ideas instead of copying ours

James Dyson
Sales of the Vortex range could be suspended as a result of the ruling and Hoover may have to radically alter the design or cease production altogether.

It plans to appeal against the court's decision.

Commenting on the case, victorious company founder James Dyson, told BBC News 24: "Why on earth don't they (Hoover) think of their own ideas instead of copying ours."

Responding to the claim that Hoover jobs could now be at a risk, Dyson said: "There are jobs at risk at Dyson too."

Huge damages

Hoover has assured workers that there will be no job losses as a result of the ruling.

But Dyson is applying to the court for damages which could run into millions.

Hoover has a history of bitter rivalry with Dyson, which has revolutionised the vacuum cleaner market with its 'dual cyclone' design.

Ten years ago a quarter of all vacuum cleaners sold in the UK were made by Hoover, but now it has less than 10% of the market, according to industry estimates.

More than half of the vacuum cleaners sold in the UK are made by Dyson.

The Vortex range, launched last year, was meant to regain the initiative for Hoover and re-invent it as a cutting edge brand.

The Dyson story
1970 - invents high speed boat for oil industry
1974 - develops the Ballbarrow, a new spin on the garden wheelbarrow
1978 - develops a 'dual cyclone' factory cleaning system
1986 - launches first bagless vacuum cleaner in Japan
1993 - launches dual cyclone DC01 cleaner in UK
1995 - DC01 becomes UK's best-selling vacuum cleaner

Although similar in appearance to Dyson's cleaners, Hoover claimed its 'triple vortex' action, supposedly derived from North Sea oil technology, gave it the edge on performance.

But the High Court ruling means Hoover will have to go back to the drawing board.

A Hoover spokesman says: "We cannot deny this is a setback, but as far as we are concerned it will be business as usual."

Hoover fought back from financial disaster in the UK in the mid 1990s when a free flights offer went wrong.

Extracting teeth

The Vortex range was supposed to introduce a new generation of consumers to the brand and lead on to advances in other product categories.

A picture of the original Dyson cleaner
The original Dyson dual cyclone cleaner

The Dyson machine uses centrifugal force to separate dust from air. It was developed from an industrial cyclone cleaner Mr Dyson designed for his wheelbarrow factory.

Mr Dyson only started manufacturing the cleaners when his ideas were turned down by a string of manufacturers.

His lawyer told a seven day High Court hearing in July that getting the industry interested had been like 'extracting teeth'.

The judge in Tuesday's ruling accepted that before Mr Dyson registered his patent in 1980, the idea of a bagless vacuum cleaner had been 'heresy'.

He also noted that before Dyson, a large slice of the manufacturer's profits came from the sale of replacement bags.

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