Dyson’s innovative designs are just too distinctive

Registered and unregistered designs are largely under-used, but not by Dyson. However, even for Dyson’s distinctive multi-stage cyclone vacuum cleaner designs, there are limits to its protection.

A design infringes if it does “not produce on the informed user a different overall impression” from the protected design. The courts are showing that actually this is rather a common sense test: if there are lots of similar looking products, then the infringing design has to be closer; if features of the design arise from the functions that the product does, then again they will count for less; but on the other hand, if the design is very novel, then informed users may think it is not different even when there are quite significant changes.

Dyson’s designs are undoubtedly unusual, although many features reflect the cyclone nature of the vacuum cleaner. But in this case the court drew on the overall style – the overall impression produced by the registered design was “smooth, curving and elegant”, while that produced by the defendant’s design was “rugged, angular and industrial, even somewhat brutal.” The overall impressions produced by the two designs were therefore different.

Should Dyson have produced a brutal model as well?

Dyson Limited v Vax Limited (2010)