The Daily Telegraph reports that John North, a British inventor, has won £17 million in damages from Swedish electrical appliance firm Electrolux after a court accepted that the company "stole" his design for a vacuum cleaner. North, an engineer from Norwich, Norfolk, invented an upright bagless vacuum cleaner and had signed a confidentiality agreement under which he disclosed his idea to Electrolux. The company showed no interest at the time, but a few months later he saw a similar machine in an electrical store.
"I just took it apart and looked at the workings. It was so simple that they thought 'anybody could do this'. We decided to take them on. It took over two years before everything got to a courtroom".The trial ran for over three weeks in an El Paso, Texas, court before the two parties settled. The jury heard that the new vacuum cleaner sold nearly three million units, amassing profits of more than £58 million. North’s design allowed the vacuum cleaner to exert greater downward force on a surface than previous devices had been able to achieve. Electrolux have reportedly made no provision for this payment to North.
The IPKat commends North for his courage in bringing the action in the United States, where the threat of sky-high damages makes generous settlements easier to achieve, rather than suing in Europe where the courts are relatively miserly.
Another mishandled episode involving Electrolux and other people’s inventions here
Electrolux bagless cleaners here
Bagless stick shark: the deliberate torture of a vacuum cleaner here