British engineering firm Dyson said Wednesday that
it filed proceedings at the High Court in London against German
manufacturer Bosch, claiming that the rival company planted a mole in
its high-security research and development department.
Dyson claimed that an employee at its headquarters in Malmesbury, south-west England, had handed company secrets to Bosch for around two years.
"We are demanding the immediate return of our intellectual property," said the Dyson statement.
The alleged spy was one of 100 engineers working on Dyson digital motors, which are key to the firm's cordless technology and Airblade hand dryer, said Dyson. Unconfirmed reports said the man in question was Chinese.
Dyson, famous for its bagless vacuum cleaner, claims secrets were also passed to Bosch's Chinese motor manufacturer and that Bosch's vice president was aware of the engineer's employment.
Dyson claimed that Bosch paid the mole through an unincorporated "business" created specifically for the purpose.
For its part, Bosch said in a statement that Dyson had 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 implied.
"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," said a statement from the company's British headquarters.
"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."
In 2010, a French court ruled that electronic firm TTI's Dirt Devil had unfairly copied Dyson's overall look. The Dyson air multiplier fan has seen around 500 infringements in over 30 countries over the past two years, according to the company.
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