Dyson out to blow German mole’s cover
It is a tale straight from the pages of a spy novel or the kind of industrial espionage Willy Wonka feared from his rivals when he let families in to see his trade secrets.
But for Sir James Dyson and the engineers and inventors working on new technology at his headquarters in Wiltshire, it is a serious business, even though the locals living near the Malmesbury factory jokingly refer to the building behind the secretive gates as ‘the chocolate factory’.
Last night Dyson sensationally claimed that they inadvertently employed a researcher who was, in fact, also working undercover for one of its great rivals, Bosch, and had passed some of the secrets of its technology to the German firm.
Dyson launched legal proceedings to demand the intellectual property be returned, and said the secrets of its digital motors had been passed to both the firm’s UK base and its subsidiary motor company in China.
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Dyson claimed Bosch had obtained the information ‘unlawfully’ from an engineer employed in the Malmesbury team that is working on improving the advanced digital motor – the key to Dyson’s recent range of successful new products.
It even claimed the un-named mole was being paid by Bosch through an unincorporated ‘business’ created specifically for this purpose.
“Dyson has confronted Bosch with evidence of wrongdoing but it has refused to return the technology,” said Mark Taylor, the firm’s research and development director. “Nor has it promised not to use the technology for its benefit, forcing Dyson to take legal action.
“Bosch’s vice president for engineering employed a Dyson engineer and benefited from our confidential know-how and expertise. We have spent over 15 years and £100 million developing high-speed brushless motors, which power our vacuum cleaners and Airblade hand dryers.
“We are demanding the immediate return of our intellectual property,” he added.
Dyson is nearing the end of a massive recruitment drive to employ more than 700 new engineers – mainly graduates – from all over the world, to boost its research and development capability.
All new employees, even the ones with no physical access to the secretive labs and research centres, are required to sign a detailed non-disclosure agreement, which includes restrictions on workers getting jobs with rivals after they leave.
Bosch responded to Dyson’s claims, admitting something had been going on, but expressing ‘regret’ that Dyson had gone to court.
“Dyson employed an individual with a pre-existing consultancy agreement with Bosch Lawn and Garden Limited in relation to garden products, and not vacuum cleaners or hand dryers as Dyson implies,” a statement from Bosch said.
“Bosch has sought to establish the full details of what occurred, including attempting to establish from Dyson what, if any, confidential information supposedly passed between Bosch and Dyson. Bosch regrets that Dyson has chosen to issue legal proceedings and a press statement at this stage, but will continue to act in the appropriate way.”