Back in August 2013, British vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson filed suit against Samsung for allegedly copying the steering system from several of Dyson’s models. Samsung’s Motion Sync cleaners had been selling for two years, but when Dyson researched the designs of the Samsung products, they found unmistakeable similarities to their own DC37 and DC39 models. Now Samsung is countersuing, saying that Dyson’s accusation hurt their company’s image.
This brings up an interesting argument regarding patents and what qualifies as intellectual property. Samsung is claiming that they possessed artwork of the design that pre-dated Dyson’s patent, and Dyson’s CEO has acknowledged that this happens frequently in companies. Hidden “prior art” is found after suits are filed, and companies are able to edge their way around patent law. Dyson ended up dropping the suit against Samsung as a result of this prior art being uncovered, but it has left them frustrated with the system.
This is a lesson to anyone interested in inventing things and applying for patents: do it sooner rather than later. If you submit your drawings and apply for a patent as soon as you have the idea, you will not have to worry about someone accusing you of copying theirs later. Take a cue from Apple, who files patents all the time, even ones they never intend on building or developing. It’s an aggressive practice, but it keeps their ideas and intellectual property secure and protected.