They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but for some reason Samsung has only ended up irritating its competitors.
The South Korean giant is once again on the receiving end of a patent lawsuit — this time over a vacuum cleaner.
British tech company Dyson, which famously "made vacuum cleaners sexy again" in the words of The New Yorker, is suing Samsung over the steering system in its Motion Sync vacuum cleaner. Dyson claims it's a blatant copy of the system in its DC37 and DC39 cylinder models, which supposedly took three years to develop. The steering feature lets the vacuums change direction effortlessly, giving the user more control over the machine.
"This looks like a cynical rip-off by the giant Korean company Samsung," said Sir James Dyson, the founder and owner of the company. "Although they are copying Dyson's patented technology, their machine is not the same. Samsung has many patent lawyers so I find it hard not to believe that this is a deliberate or utterly reckless infringement of our patent."
Samsung is calling the lawsuit "groundless." A spokesperson told The Guardian, "The Samsung Motion Sync is an outcome of our own extensive research and development."
Dyson's charges are nothing new for Samsung, which has thrived by putting out cheaper versions of groundbreaking products that often debut in the luxury market. Since 2011, Samsung has been locked in a series of patent disagreements with Apple, the latest of which culminated in August, when the U.S.'s International Trade Commission decided that Samsung had infringed on two of Apple's patents — one for a touch screen multitouch function and another related to headset plug detection. The agency banned Samsung from importing or selling the models in question.
With Dyson, Samsung finds itself facing off against another formidable opponent. The British company is famous for tightly guarding its 3,000 or so patents. Over the company's 20-year history, it has been involved in 750 cases pertaining to intellectual property. Last year, for example, Dyson accused German rival Bosch of paying a Dyson employee to pass secrets to Bosch's Chinese motor manufacturer. It has also sued Samsung before, back in 2009.
"The lawyers are constantly in battles with various other companies trying to protect what we've come up with, because that's where the hard work goes in," Chris Osborn, Dyson's Airblade chief, told Tech Radar earlier this year. "We spend the money developing our ideas and we want to protect them."
Dyson has certainly made big technological developments in the vacuum industry, creating the first vacuum that uses centrifugal force to separate dirt from the air flowing into the machine.
It's a lot to think about next time you're cleaning your apartment.