Considering cross motions for summary judgment, an Illinois federal court found Dyson lacked sufficient evidence to move forward with its entire false advertising suit against competitor SharkNinja.
Dyson alleged that fellow vacuum maker SharkNinja used “false and aggressive advertising” as well as “inadequate and unreliable data” to make claims of superiority over Dyson’s products in print advertisements, short commercials and infomercials. SharkNinja countered that Dyson failed to present sufficient evidence that SharkNinja’s claims were false. Both sides provided independent testing under ASTM F608, which they recognized as the gold standard for testing the ability of vacuums to remove embedded dirt from carpet.
After both parties moved for summary judgment on various elements of their cases, U.S. District Court Judge Joan B. Gottschall attempted to navigate the waters of the dispute.
First, the court denied Dyson’s motion for summary judgment on the merits of its claims that SharkNinja’s advertising was false, rejecting the arguments that ads referencing “independent” tests were false because they were performed by an entity that was not independent of SharkNinja and that claims based on a statement that “tests show x” could be satisfied by showing those tests do prove the proposition.
The testing company used by SharkNinja was not beholden to or controlled by the advertiser simply because SharkNinja paid for its services, the court said. Nor was the court persuaded by Dyson’s reliance upon an email from a testing company employee to SharkNinja, calling the company’s attention to a Dyson ad.
“It is routine customer-relationship management and routine marketing for a service provider to inform a potential customer about a happening which might prompt that potential customer to hire the service provider,” Judge Gottschall wrote.
The court again sided with SharkNinja over Dyson’s challenge to a claim that SharkNinja ads were backed by independent testing, by arguing that another test of the product produced a different result. “The court cannot agree that a claim that ‘tests prove x’ could be literally false when the tests do, in fact, prove x,” the court wrote. “Here, it is undisputed as of December 2014, Shark had valid independent tests that showed its statements … were true. That Dyson conducted other tests that reached a different conclusion does not make Shark’s statements about its tests false.”
Concluding that Dyson had not put forth sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in its favor, the court granted SharkNinja’s motion for summary judgment as to a specific time period. The order wasn’t a total loss for Dyson, however, as the court also granted summary judgment for the plaintiff on SharkNinja’s affirmative defenses.
To read the memorandum opinion and order in Dyson, Inc. v. SharkNinja Operating LLC, click here.
Why it matters: After a deep dive into the world of vacuum testing, the court issued a mixed decision for the parties, which are currently embroiled in a related suit in Massachusetts federal court. In that case, SharkNinja claims Dyson falsely advertised that its vacuums have “Twice the suction” of other products on the market. The fierce competitors have also battled it out before the National Advertising Division, where the self-regulatory body recommended that SharkNinja discontinue a claim that “Americans now choose Shark 2-to-1 over Dyson.”