A federal jury has ordered vacuum cleaner maker SharkNinja to pay $16 million to rival manufacturer Dyson for allegedly falsely claiming their vacuums had significantly more suction or were better at deep-cleaning than Dyson’s models.
On Monday, the jury returned the verdict after a 10-day trial in Chicago federal court, finding the Massachusetts-based SharkNinja had falsely advertised over a four-month period in 2014 the performance of its Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away cleaner, relative to the performance of certain products made by Dyson.
Dyson is based in the United Kingdom. Its U.S. headquarters is in Chicago.
After two hours of deliberations, the jury found SharkNinja owed Dyson $16.4 million payable from its “profits” from August to December 2014.
Gregg LoCascio Kirkland & Ellis
Dyson had filed suit in 2014, accusing SharkNinja of violating the federal Lanham Act, by running an advertising campaign in which it claimed its Rotator Powered Lift-Away vacuums, model NV650, “cleans carpets better” than Dyson’s DC65 vacuum, which Dyson had begun selling in January 2014. The ads asserted the claims were based on “independent lab testing.”
But Dyson asserted these claims were untrue and initiated the court action to address what Dyson said were its rival’s “intentional and willful” false claims.
While Dyson lost its initial request for a preliminary injunction, the company persisted in the litigation, taking the matter to trial – a rarity for false advertising claims.
Dyson attorney Gregg LoCascio, of the firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, said the process was important, particularly given what Dyson learned in discovery, to “publicly air” the facts of the case.
“In this situation, Dyson was the innovator,” LoCascio said. “Shark had been comparing (its product) to Dyson, to try to say they were the same or better than Dyson, but cheaper.
“Their products were not as good or better than Dyson. Shark went way over the line here.”
During the trial, SharkNinja’s CEO also testified before the jury.
Jurors also were allowed to pose questions to the litigants, as well.
LoCascio said the $16.4 million award was very close to an $18 million maximum amount Dyson could claim in the matter, and helps to recompense some of the harm LoCascio said Dyson suffered during the final four months of 2014, typically the busiest time of the year for vacuum cleaner sales.
As the prevailing party in the litigation, Dyson can also petition the court to require SharkNinja to pay its attorney fees, or otherwise increase the jury’s award.
SharkNinja attorney John Froemming, of Jones Day, of Washington, D.C., declined to comment on the verdict.
Dyson was also represented in the action by attorneys Robin McCue and Megan New, of Kirkland & Ellis, and Dyson general counsel Jason Brown.