Shark Ninja, Dyson end le­gal bat­tle over ad claims

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Denise Lavoie AP Le­gal Af­fairs Writer

BOS­TON » Two of the most well­known names in vac­uum clean­ers have ended a two-year le­gal bat­tle over just how much their prod­ucts suck.

Dyson, the Bri­tish tech­nol­ogy com­pany known for its up­scale vac­u­ums, and SharkNinja Op­er­at­ing LLC, a Mas­sachusetts­based com­pany known for its in­fomer­cials and lower-priced vac­u­ums, had sued each other over ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns in which they claimed their vac­u­ums had sig­nif­i­cantly more suc­tion or were bet­ter at deep­clean­ing. Each com­pany ac­cused the other of vi­o­lat­ing state and fed­eral laws through false and mis­lead­ing ad­ver­tis­ing.

A trial was set to be­gin Mon­day in fed­eral court in Bos­ton, but late Thurs­day, the com­pa­nies filed a no­tice in court say­ing both sides had agreed to dis­miss their claims. Both com­pa­nies agreed to pay their own le­gal fees and costs.

The com­pa­nies and their lawyers de­clined to com­ment on the law­suits or the de­ci­sion to with­draw them just be­fore trial.

The bat­tle be­gan af­ter Dyson launched an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign in 2013, claim­ing that some of its vac­u­ums had “twice the suc­tion power of any other vac­uum” on the mar­ket.

The fol­low­ing year, at­tor­neys for Shark-Ninja sent a let­ter to Dyson say­ing it planned to in­tro­duce a new vac­uum — the Shark Ro­ta­tor Pow­ered Lift-Away Up­right — that would make Dyson’s “twice the suc­tion” claim false.

In court doc­u­ments, Dyson ac­knowl­edged that its claim be­came false once Lift-Away came out, but in­sisted it took prompt steps to elim­i­nate the “twice the suc­tion” ad­ver­tis­ing from the mar­ket, in­clud­ing spend­ing nearly $1 mil­lion to re­place pack­ag­ing.

But Shark-Ninja said in its law­suit that Dyson dragged its feet on re­mov­ing the “twice the suc­tion” ad­ver­tis­ing claims un­til early 2015, hin­der­ing sales and mar­ket growth of Shark’s Lift-Away vac­uum.

Dyson filed coun­ter­claims against Shark-Ninja over an up­right stick vac­uum known as the Rocket in­tro­duced in Septem­ber 2013. The prod­uct pack­ag­ing box for the Rocket in­cluded a pro­mo­tional state­ment claim­ing it “deep cleans car­pets bet­ter vs. a full size Dyson.”

A foot­note said the claim re­ferred to only one Dyson vac­uum — the DC40 — but Dyson ar­gued in court fil­ings that the foot­note was so small and in­con­spic­u­ous that most con­sumers would not have no­ticed it and as­sumed the claim com­pared it to ev­ery full--

size Dyson up­right.

Each side had planned to call an ex­pert to tes­tify about the amount of prof­its the com­pany be­lieves it was en­ti­tled to be­cause of the ad­ver­tis­ing claims, but the amounts were not made pub­lic.

Stacey Do­gan, a Bos­ton Uni­ver­sity law pro­fes­sor who spe­cial­izes in in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and com­pe­ti­tion law, said these kinds of cases can be­come emo­tional for two com­pa­nies who take brand loy­alty se­ri­ously.

“It’s this idea not just that they feel a per­sonal in­vest­ment in the brand, but it’s also the emo­tions wrapped up in that sense of brand sig­nif­i­cance or brand im­por­tance,” she said.


A Dyson, left, and SharkNinja up­right vac­uum clean­ers are po­si­tioned to­gether at the evac­u­um­ re­tail lo­ca­tion in Brain­tree, Mass.

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