Dyson Fails in Design Claim against Vax

The Court of Appeal has ruled in the case of Dyson Limited v Vax Limited after Dyson appealed the High Court judgment of Arnold J. Dyson had claimed that the registered design rights relating to its DC02 vacuum cleaner had been infringed by Vax when it released its Match Zen C-91 MZ vacuum cleaner.

Registered design rights are an intellectual property right which arise out of the Registered Designs Act 1949, as amended to implement Designs Directive 98/71. In order to succeed in its claim, Dyson had to show that its design was novel. In the context of registered designs, novelty resides “in the shape and configuration” of Dyson’s DC02 vacuum cleaner.

The key legal question before the court was whether Vax’s Match Zen cleaner did not produce on the informed user a different overall impression when compared to Dyson’s offering. The informed user is a hypothetical person who is reasonably discriminatory, who possesses a relatively high degree of attention in relation to the subject matter at hand and is not a manufacturer or a seller of vacuum cleaners.

Sir Robin Jacob, sitting on the bench alongside Lord Justice Jackson and Lady Justice Black, noted a number of differences between the two offerings, such as Vax’s inclusion of accessories and the different approaches of each manufacturer to aesthetic features. Both vacuum cleaners include transparent bins, although they are of different shapes and have significantly different handles. He concluded that an informed user would not conclude that the designs were identical and held that the features relied upon by Dyson were not specific enough to succeed in the claim before the court.

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