Dyson warns China over rip-offs

Posted on 5 Dec 2011 by The Manufacturer

Sir James Dyson has warned China that it risks being expelled from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over copyright breaches including copies of his famous inventions.

Dyson, a member of the prime minister’s business advisory group, issued the warning as executives at the company he founded prepare to raise their concerns this week at an intellectual property (IP) symposium brokered by the Chinese and British governments and attended by Baroness Wilcox, minister for IP. The firm said Wilcox was “aware” of its concerns.

In an article by Guardian industrial editor Dan Milmo, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner and Blade Hand Dryer said: China’s reputation among foreign investors is being diminished by the flouting of product copyrights and a two-speed patent system that appears to discriminate against non-Chinese applications.

“They are running the risk of being expelled from the WTO. They are creating an unlevel playing field by taking our technology and selling it all over the world.” China joined the WTO, the body that enforces global trade rules, in 2001.

Dyson argues that China benefits from strictly monitored IP regimes outside its own border, but has failed to crack down on domestic offenders as it pursues rapid economic growth. The inventor cited a recent case in China where his company successfully sued a firm manufacturing a copy of its bladeless electronic fan.

“We had to put a private detective in their factory and take photos of them making the fans. Then we won the case and they were fined $7,500 but they didn’t pay the fine and they just carried on,” he said. Dyson is pursuing 20 design or patent cases around the world, many of them related to the distribution and sale of products made in China. The inventor did not put a figure on the amount of lost revenue but said the total was “quite a lot”. The business has spent $3m (£1.9m) on legal fees.