Dyson has accused Bosch of sending an industrial spy into its secret research and development centre to hoover up confidential details of its designs.
The innovative British engineering firm, renowned for its bagless vacuum cleaners, has filed a lawsuit against its German rival, claiming that a mole has been placed within its centre at Malmesbury in Wiltshire for a period of two years.
Dyson alleges that one of the 100-strong engineering team working on its digital motors, used within its airblade hand dryers, was passing information back to Bosch’s own motor manufacturing unit in China – and that the company’s vice president, Dr Wolfgang Hirschburger, was aware of the operation.
The mole, who has not been identified but is said to be Chinese, was paid through an unincorporated business account, according to Dyson.
The company said that it had challenged Bosch over the issue before launching court proceedings, presenting evidence of the undercover mission, but decided to take legal action after Bosch refused to hand back its technology or issue undertakings not to use the ill-gotten machinery in its products.
Mark Taylor, Dyson’s research and development director, said: “We have spent over 15 years and £100 million developing high-speed brushless motors, which power our vacuum cleaners and Airblade hand dryers. We are demanding the immediate return of our intellectual property.”
In a statement, however, Bosch retorted: “Dyson employed an individual with a pre-existing consultancy agreement with Bosch Lawn and Garden Limited in relation to garden products, and not vacuum cleaners or hand dryers as Dyson implies.
“Bosch has sought to establish the full details of what occurred, including attempting to establish from Dyson what, if any, confidential information supposedly passed between Bosch and Dyson. Bosch regrets that Dyson has chosen to issue legal proceedings and a press statement at this stage, but will continue to act in the appropriate way.”