Dyson has hair care in its sights – but protecting IP rights may still be a battle

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Dyson has revealed its first personal care product – an innovative hairdryer that, it says, is quieter and less damaging to hair than a conventional machine.

It is the first hairdryer powered by a miniaturised air pump in the handle, using the same airflow principles as Dyson’s desk fan products.

The company said it had invested £50million in the development of the device. However, the £299 price tag makes it at least twice as expensive as salon-grade dryers made by rival manufacturers.

Dyson is best known for its bag-less vacuum cleaners and high-speed hand dryers, although it says it has a further 40 products currently in development.

However, where’s there’s an engineering invention there are a host of pretenders, eager to exploit consumers’ desire for a bargain by producing copycat products.

BJ Chong, a partner and Intellectual Property expert with Palmers, said: “Dyson is incredibly protective of its intellectual property rights, and rightly so, as it invests huge sums in engineering research and development. Despite this, copycat products pop up all the time; the majority being sold on-line from the Far East and it’s a constant battle for Dyson to track down these manufacturers and sellers; particularly as Chinese law is notoriously time-consuming and expensive to negotiate.”

Earlier this year, Dyson scored a rare victory, for a Western company, in China. It successfully brought legal action against a Chinese company that had infringed the design of its ‘Air Multiplier’ desk fan.

Dyson’s IP Director, Gill Smith commenting about the case, said: “Within three months, Chinese companies were offering identical copies.

“We believe they bought samples of our fans in Australia and reverse-engineered them. They even used our images off our website and our copy.

“Sometimes people are offering products without having any available – they seem to be testing the water before committing to manufacturing or ordering stock,” she added.

BJ Chong continued: “The case shows Dyson’s determination to fully defend its IP rights. Its assertiveness has also led to wider action being taken outside the IP world. In a speech in Beijing, late last year, Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “We need to work together to do more to protect IP rights because this will give businesses more confidence to come and invest in China”.

“This suggests that IP rights have become a big part of the political and business agenda, which many would argue is not before time. Despite the willingness to defend Britain’s IP rights, it will, almost certainly, only be a matter of time before Dyson’s latest invention is picked apart and copied in some corner of the world.”

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