UK: Dyson With Disaster: CA Holds Registered Design For Vacuum Cleaner Not Infringed

Last Updated: 14 November 2011
Article by Nick Beckett and Stuart Helmer

Dyson Ltd v Vax Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1206, 27 October 2011


The Court of Appeal (CA) has delivered its judgment in Dyson Limited v Vax Limited, a case concerning a UK registered design for a cyclonic vacuum cleaner. The CA upheld the earlier decision of the High Court that Vax's Mach Zen model did not infringe the registered design of Dyson's DC02 as the design of the Mach Zen produced a different overall impression on the informed user. The decision reviewed the issues to be considered in registered design infringement claims, and in particular highlighted that the need for expert evidence in design cases is very limited, and that, when expert evidence is required, the expert should be specifically instructed in the specific questions to be addressed.


Under the Registered Designs Act 1949, as amended, a registered design owner has the exclusive right to make articles incorporating that design for a maximum period of 25 years following registration. Dyson, a pioneer in the development of cyclonic vacuum cleaners, obtained a registered design for the appearance of its DC02 in 1994 (No. 204379). The registration claimed that "the features of the design for which novelty is claimed reside in the shape and configuration applied to the article as shown in the representation".

In 2009 Vax launched the Mach Zen cleaner and Dyson claimed infringement of its registered design. In the High Court, Arnold J held that there was no infringement as the overall impression produced on the informed user by the Mach Zen was different from that produced by the registered design. Dyson then appealed.

To view the pictures of the design and the Mach Zen follow the full decision link here.

High Court

Arnold J dismissed Dyson's claim in the High Court as he considered that the two designs gave a different overall impression to the informed user. He held that although the informed user would notice similarities between the two designs (the transparent bin and large rear wheels, amongst others) these were not significant. Furthermore, he considered that some of the identical and similar features of the Dyson and Vax cleaners, particularly the angle of the cylinder and the transparent bin, were necessitated by technical constraints that limit and restrict design freedom, and accordingly, that the scope of protection afforded by Dyson's registration was narrowed.

Court of Appeal

Sir Robin Jacob, who gave the leading judgment, upheld the decision of the High Court and concluded that Arnold J had made no error of principle in concluding that the Mach Zen did produce a different overall impression on the informed user. Sir Robin Jacob also reiterated that the subject matter of the registered design is strictly that shown in the representations on the certificate of registration, and that colour (of both the registration and the alleged infringement) should be ignored for considering the scope of registration. To this end, the physical articles compared by the Court of Appeal were spray-painted grey. He also stressed that in cases involving registered designs (and trade marks) it is essential for the court to have proper reproductions of the articles.

The key legal question for the Court was whether the Mach Zen "does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression" than that produced by the registered design. Sir Robin Jacob reiterated that the most important issues in a case about registered designs are: (i) the registered design; (ii) the accused object; and (iii) the prior art, and emphasised that "What really matters is what the court can see with its own eyes". He therefore criticised Dyson's approach of setting out a list of nine specific similarities between the Mach Zen and the design, which he said was far too general: for example, although it was correct that "both have transparent bins through which the cyclone shroud is visible", the reality was that both the bins and shrouds are very different in shape. It is not appropriate in a registered design case to take features of a design, turn them into general words and then treat those words like a patent claim. Here, the overall impression of the design was "smooth, curving and elegant"; that of the Mach Zen was "rugged, angular and industrial, even somewhat brutal". Sir Robin concluded that these were different overall impressions, and therefore different designs.

The decision is also of importance because Sir Robin Jacob also stated that in the limited number of cases where expert evidence is helpful, the expert should be given clear guidance on the specific question to be addressed. Jackson LJ agreed with Sir Robin's judgment and also noted that Part 35 of the CPR will be amended next year to require a party, on permission application for expert evidence, to specify the issues to be addressed by the expert. Furthermore, Jackson LJ noted that a court giving permission for expert evidence will in future be encouraged, but not compelled, to specify the issues which the experts should address.


It is unsurprising that Dyson appealed the decision of the High Court as the company has a record of defending its IP energetically through the courts. Indeed, Dyson recently won a case against Vax's sister company Dirt Devil, in France, involving the same design and infringing article. Both Vax and Dirt Devil are owned by the China-based company TTI. Commenting after the Court of Appeal judgment, Dyson said, "it is galling and mind-boggling. There is something very off when we get support from the French courts but not from the British. We need to better protect British design".

Sir Robin Jacob emphasised once again that the assessment of overall impression is a subjective matter at the discretion of the court. As he previously noted in Procter & Gamble v Reckitt Benckiser "the test is inherently rather imprecise". However, he also referred to his previous comment (again in Procter & Gamble) that an appellate court should not reverse a judge's decision unless he has erred in principle. Unsuccessful design litigants should therefore be cautious about proceeding to appeal simply on the basis that they disagree with the court's assessment of overall impression.

For the full decision, please click here.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 08/11/11.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.