Samsung countersues Dyson for $9.4m, claims reputation damage

samsung countersues dyson for 9 4m motion sync vacuum cleaner
Samsung's Motion Sync vacuum cleaner, the machine at the center of Dyson's claim last year.

Last August Dyson filed a lawsuit against Samsung, accusing it of stealing elements of its vacuum cleaner design, though two months later it dropped the claim.

If Dyson thought that was the end of it, it was wrong, as it has emerged that the Korean tech giant is now suing it for 10 billion won ($9.38 million), accusing the UK tech firm of “seriously hurting its corporate image by portraying it as a repeat patent violator or copycat,” the Korea Times reported in the last few days.

Dyson’s original claim centered on the steering mechanism of Samsung’s ‘Motion Sync’ vacuum cleaner unveiled at a Berlin tech show last year. Sir James Dyson described Samsung’s design as “a cynical rip-off” of the steering mechanism on its own DC37 and DC39 vacuum models, which hit the market two years earlier.

‘Intolerable’

In its defense, Samsung produced ‘prior art’ which claimed to show that the idea was already in use prior to Dyson obtaining the patent for it in 2009. Dyson dropped its lawsuit voluntarily in November.

Speaking to the Korea Times, a spokesman for Samsung said, “We are initially seeking 10 billion won compensation from the UK-based manufacturer. However, the amount will increase depending on how the court proceedings go.”

He added, “Samsung’s marketing activities were negatively affected by Dyson’s groundless litigation, which is intolerable.”

Following news of Samsung’s action, Dyson issued a statement, saying it “pioneered cyclonic vacuum cleaners and digital motors – and has been developing them ever since. We patent our technology, and naturally defend it.”

The UK firm added that it was “surprised a company over 100 times bigger than Dyson is so worried. The patent system offers us some protection but not enough: with an army of lawyers, hidden prior art is occasionally found and ways to design around existing patents identified.”

History

The current dispute isn’t the first time the pair have clashed over patents – five years ago a UK court ordered Samsung to pay Dyson £590,000 (then $852,000) for attempting to patent the latter’s triple-cyclone vacuum cleaner technology.

“Samsung aped our patented technology and cynically claimed to have invented it. Today’s result is a win for engineers and inventors,” Dyson said following the ruling.

The Seoul-based company has been involved in a number of high profile court battles in recent years, most notably with arch rival Apple over various patent infringement claims. The pair’s next round of legal action is due to kick off next month. 

Samsung’s action against Dyson could be viewed as part of an ongoing effort by the company to break free from its reputation in some quarters as an imitator rather than a leader in tech design, with executives apparently eager to exploit Dyson’s decision to drop the case last year. 

[via Korea Times / Guardian]

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