Dyson is a well-known and respected British home appliances manufacturer. This nearly three-decade-old company is particularly known for its impressive line of vacuum cleaners. It also manufactures hand and hair dryers, heaters and more. The company was set up by James Dyson, who continues to be the sole owner to this day.
How It All Began
Dyson began work on a vacuum cleaner prototype back in 1979. The reason he focused his attention and time on vacuum cleaners was that the vacuum he had been using at home didn’t work as promised. Instead of sucking in the dust and retaining it inside the vacuum, a large amount of the dust would escape back into the room. He adapted the cyclonic separator technique used to eliminate dust from the air in industrial sawmills in his vacuum prototype. The basic idea was to develop a bagless vacuum, which in the process of cleaning doesn’t lose its suction.
During his years at the Royal College of Art, Dyson had met British inventor and engineer Jeremy Fry. It was Fry who provided almost half the investment required to develop the cyclonic vacuum prototypes. Over the next five years, he made and tested thousands of prototypes.
Finally, in 1984, Dyson struck a licensing deal with the consumer goods manufacturer Amway in the United States. The deal didn’t work out and soon after Amway launched a vacuum cleaner that was a little too similar to Dyson’s designs. Dyson filed a suit against Amway for patent infringement. The lawsuit was eventually settled in 1991. As part of the settlement, Dyson and Amway became joint licensees of the product and it was still sold.
In 1985, Dyson signed a lucrative licensing deal with a Japanese company called Apex Ltd. This deal turned out to be fruitful and the income from it was used to establish Dyson Appliances Ltd. in the year 1991.
The first Dyson vacuum featuring the patented cyclone technology was called the DA 001. Interestingly, it was manufactured by an American company called Philips Plastics and the production took place in Wrexham, Wales. But this didn’t last long and early 1993 Dyson set up an in-house manufacturing facility in Chippenham, Wiltshire in England. The next and probably most recognisable and marketable iteration of Dyson’s cyclone technology based vacuum was the DC01. It was distinguishable from other vacuums in the market, because of its transparent canister where you could see all the dust that had accumulated.
Till 2001, Fantom Technologies sold Dyson products in North America as a licensee, after which Dyson began selling independently. In the same year, Dyson launched a vacuum with upgraded technology. This model had seven cyclone funnels in place of the dual cyclone funnel technology used in earlier models.
Dyson Moves Production to Malaysia and Singapore
Dyson moved its vacuum production to Malaysia in 2002. At the time, this move was met with a lot of criticism, especially from the trade unions in Wiltshire (where production had thus far been taking place) complaining about possible job losses. A year later, Dyson also moved its washing machine manufacturing to Malaysia.
In 2004, Dyson signed a joint venture with Meiban Group, which is based in Singapore. Following the joint venture, the newly formed entity established a manufacturing plant in Johor, Malaysia. About a decade later, in 2013, Dyson also set up a production plant in Tuas, Singapore, specifically for making digital motors.
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The Various Patent and Copyright Infringements
Over the years, Dyson had to deal with a number of cases of patent infringements and copyright infringements, besides the Amway case.
- In 2000, one of the largest vacuum cleaner manufacturing company, Hoover was found guilty of patent infringement. Hoover’s Triple Vortex bagless vacuum was ruled have copied Dyson’s patented cyclone technology. Eventually, in 2002, Hoover had to pay $4.2 million in damages to Dyson for this blatant infringement.
- In 2006, vacuum parts maker Qualtex was found guilty of copying some of Dyson’s design rights to make and sell its vacuum parts. Qualtex had outsourced the manufacturing to a Chinese company, which was found to have perpetrated the copying.
- In 2010, Dyson sued a rival company called Vax for allegedly copying its design to develop its Mach Zen vacuum. However, on this occasion, the court ruled against Dyson.
- Dyson had sued Samsung in 2013 for allegedly copying its vacuum steering technology, which ensures that the vacuum moves smoothly and intuitively behind the user and isn’t dragged around. However, on this occasion, Dyson itself withdrew the suit for reasons that they didn’t disclose.
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James Dyson Foundation
The James Dyson Foundation was set up in 2002, primarily to encourage youngsters to study engineering, but it also supports medical and other scientific research. The Foundation supports the local community in Malmesbury, where Dyson’s headquarters is located.
To encourage engineering studies, the Foundation provides free resources to schools to develop engineering curriculum emphasising on engagement and hands-on learning. It also conducts workshops where students get the opportunity to turn their ideas into actual working models.
As part of its medical initiatives, the Foundation has set up the Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care. The Royal United Hospital undertook the construction of this centre for which £750,000 was donated. A further £4 million was donated to the Royal United Hospital’s Cancer Centre. The Foundation has also donated money for other medical research, including Alzheimer’s research.
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For the local community in Malmesbury, it has donated money to charities, supports schools and projects. It also supports the Malmesbury Carnival.
The Foundation’s activities aren’t restricted to the United Kingdom alone. It expanded to the United States in 2011 and to Japan in 2016. In all, it runs activities in 25 countries. They have also opened the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.
In addition to all of this, there’s the James Dyson Award. It is an award specifically for design and engineering students who have recently graduated. It is awarded every year and is open to students in 27 countries.