Dyson, the company founded by inventor James Dyson (pictured), has claimed that one of its employees has been working as a corporate spy - handing details of confidential developments at the firm to German rival Bosch.
Dyson has filed proceedings in court.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the company claims that Bosch was using an employee in a special unit of Dyson's digital motors plant. The employee had access to cutting-edge developments as they were helping to test and form new ideas. Dyson says that Bosch paid the mole through an unincorporated business.
In a statement, Dyson said: "Dyson has confronted Bosch with evidence of wrongdoing but it has refused to return the technology. Nor has it promised not to use the technology for its benefit, forcing Dyson to take legal action."
Mark Taylor, Dyson Research and Development Director, said: "Bosch's Vice President for engineering employed a Dyson engineer and benefited from our confidential know-how and expertise. We have spent over fifteen years and £100m developing high-speed brushless motors, which power our vacuum cleaners and Airblade hand dryers. We are demanding the immediate return of our intellectual property."
We cannot know at this stage what happened, and will have to wait for the court to determine whether there has been any wrongdoing.
However, elsewhere corporate espionage is not entirely unknown. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, it costs the world's 1,000 largest companies over £22.4 billion a year.
There have been some very high-profile cases. In 2001 Fortune magazine accused Proctor & Gamble of spying on Unilever, and was said to have looked through their rubbish. Proctor & Gamble admitted it had broken its own rules when looking into Unilever's haircare business, and eventually settled out of court.
In 1998, Tennessee-based shaving company employee, Steven Louis Davis, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for industrial espionage. He worked for Wright Industries, which had been contracted to provide services to Gillette. He was found guilty of having stolen trade secrets.
In 1997 Harold C. Worden, an employee of the Eastman Kodak Corporation, retired and established his own consulting firm. Before retiring he had worked on a machine which produces plastic for consumer film, and when he left he took thousands of documents about the machine's development - marked 'confidential'. By the time he was arrested he had made $26,700 from selling the information. As part of a plea arrangement, he plead guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property and was sentenced to a year in prison.
10 biggest companies in the world
Dyson claims Bosch spy worked in the company
Wal-Mart Stores, or Walmart, is an American retailer that runs chains of discount department and warehouse stores around the world.
The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, incorporated on October 31, 1969, and first traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas and has around 8,500 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names.
Royal Dutch Shell, more commonly known as Shell, is a global oil and gas company headquartered in Holland, but with its registered office in London.
With operations in more than 90 countries, it is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, petrochemicals, power generation and trading.
Exxon Mobil Corporation, or ExxonMobil, is an American oil and gas corporation formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are in Irving, Texas.
With 37 oil refineries in 21 countries, Exxon Mobil Corporation is the largest refiner in the world.
BP is yet another global oil and gas company, this time headquartered in London. It has operations in more than 80 countries, produces about 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and has 22,400 service stations worldwide.
The name BP is derived from the initials of one of the company's former legal names, British Petroleum.
Sinopec Group is one of the major petroleum companies in China, headquartered in Beijing.
Its business includes oil and gas exploration as well as the production and sales of petrochemicals and chemical fibres.
China National Petroleum Corporation is a state-owned fuel-producing corporation and the largest integrated oil and gas company in China. It has its headquarters in Beijing.
CNPC - the parent company of PetroChina - was created in 17 September 1988 when the government decided to disband the Ministry of Petroleum and create a state owned company to handle all Petroleum activities in China.
State Grid Corporation of China is the largest electric power transmission and distribution company in China, once again headquartered in Beijing.
It has subsidiaries in Northern China, Northeastern China, Eastern China, Middle China and Northwestern China.
Toyota Motor Corporation, more commonly known simply as Toyota, is a multinational automaker headquartered in Toyota, Japan.
The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father's company Toyota Industries. Its brands include Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu.
Japan Post Holdings is a state-owned Japanese company that deals with mail delivery and financial services.
It is headquartered in Tokyo and was founded on January 23, 2006.
Chevron Corporation is an American energy company headquartered in San Ramon, California.
It is active in more than 180 countries and is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, including exploration and production, and power generation.