Amway Cheats Inventor

dyson.jpg (44277 bytes)James Dyson is the British inventor of the "dual cyclone" vacuum cleaner. In 1984, after years of development and marketing, Dyson was approached by the vice president for global operations, Amway Corp. Amway wanted Dyson's vacuum cleaner. As it turns out, they wanted it at any cost -- or at no cost!

As Dyson describes in his recent book, Against the Odds,dyson_book.jpg (7238 bytes)

The VP was a very nice man indeed, which meant a lot because he was our only point of contact with the company. So nice. So nice. . .

After a few days. . . they offered me what seemed a huge sum for a licence for the Dual Cyclone.

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Dyson's Cyclone 1993

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Amway Clear Trak

Dyson and his partner met with lawyers and company executives to hammer out a deal. After an intensive four days of negotiations, they left for a couple of days R&R while the lawyers got everything ready to sign. Arriving back two days later, they were presented with a whole new deal. They agreed to it anyway.

Between May and August, 1984, Dyson went to Amway headquarters in Ada, MI twice more to discuss the project and to give them drawings and specifications. In September, he received notice that Amway wanted to renegotiate again. However, a few days later he received a letter from Amway's lawyers accusing Dyson of misrepresentation on the grounds that the Dual Cyclone was not ready for market, although they did not say anything about terminating the agreement. Dyson and his partner responded that, in that case, they assumed Amway was abandoning the project, and the legal sparks began to fly.

As long as the agreement with Amway was being contested, Dyson was unable to market his Dual Cyclone elsewhere, and the legal costs were horrendous. After several months, the situation was resolved in early 1985. Dyson repaid them all the money they had advanced, and in return terminated Amway's license and had his patents returned.

 

In November, 1987, Dyson received a phone call from a business associate in Chicago, who announced that he had just been on a sales call to a client and

'. . . well, there's a bit of a problem. . . They've got one already.'

'Whaaaaat?'

'The buyer's got a cyclonic vacuum cleaner just like yours in there. It's made by Amway.'

They license it, they say it doesn't work, they unlicence it, they get their money back, and then they bring out a dual cyclone themselves! I staggered backwards with the shock of it. . .

What was most unfair I felt was that I had invested all that money and all those years in research and development of my invention, and on patenting. I had had to borrow and pawn and risk the welfare of my own family and now some enormous organisation with more money and man hours than I could even dream of, were just going to get on with selling their version. They were out on the market before us, and, it transpired, they were claiming the credit for it."

dyson_patent.jpg (18725 bytes)Dyson hired a US patent lawyer, who purchased one of Amway's vacuums and took photos of it being demonstrated and then shipped it to Dyson. At least four of Dyson's patents were being infringed. Additionally, it was obvious that Amway had misappropriated the confidential information that Dyson had provided during their negotiations.

Three years later, in late 1990, the lawsuits against Amway (pdf_icon.gif (914 bytes)case number 1988cv00060 in Grand Rapids, MI) was still ongoing, costing Dyson upwards of 300,000 English pounds a year. Finally, the case was settled. Dyson got some well-deserved payment, and Amway continues to manufacture the Clear-Trak as a joint licensee, which earns Dyson some royalties.

When Dyson was getting ready to publish his book, Amway took legal action against him again in an attempt to stop publication. They did not want their actions to become public knowledge. Fortunately, they did not succeed.

In 1999, Hoover UK tried to imitate a Dyson and James was forced back to court to protect his invention again. After 18 months Dyson finally won a victory against Hoover UK for patent infringement.

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Amagram March 1988

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