Which company should bring a claim for defamation?

Written by Laura Gathercole | January 30, 2023

Intellectual Property


Two UK entities in the Dyson group of companies (Dyson Technology and Dyson Ltd) along with Dyson’s founder, Sir James Dyson, brought a libel (defamation) claim against Channel 4 and ITN in the case of Dyson v Channel Four.

The claim was brought after it was alleged in a Channel 4 news broadcast that workers at one of Dyson’s suppliers’ factories were mistreated.

The broadcast named the first claimant, Sir James Dyson, and pictured him. Notably, the broadcast did not name the second claimant (Dyson Technology) or the third claimant (Dyson Ltd) specifically, but referred to ‘Dyson’ more generally.


Although the first claimant was specifically named, it was held that the broadcast was not defamatory towards him. This was because the broadcast was not about him; it only referred to him as the founder of the Dyson brand, and an ‘ordinary reasonable viewer’ would not think that he was being personally criticised.

It was also held that the broadcast in question was not referring to the second and third claimants. It did not matter that Dyson Technology and Dyson Ltd are the two most prominent Dyson companies in the UK. This was because these entities were not ones which would be identified by those viewing the broadcast as being the subject, or target of the allegations.

The claim was therefore dismissed.


When bringing a claim for defamation, a key part is if the publication (or broadcast) in question clearly names the claimant(s) within it. However, it is not necessary for a claimant to be specially named in order for them to be able to bring a claim.

This prompts the question – which corporate company should be the claimant in cases such as this?

The court focused on the ‘touchstone of reference’. This meant that the company which should have brought the claim is that which the ‘reasonable’ consumer of the broadcast would have identified as the target of the allegations.

In this case, the Judge said that the companies which the viewers would identify as the ‘subjects’ of the broadcast would have been:

  1. whichever entity was responsible for trading with the supplier and therefore had knowledge of the mistreatment, or did not have knowledge but failed to investigate; and
  2. whichever entity was responsible for the ‘PR operation’ referred to by the broadcast, which it alleged performed a ‘cover up’ to stop any public criticism.

For more information on bringing or defending a defamation claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch through our online enquiry form, by email at info@briffa.com or on 0207 096 2779.

Written by Laura Gathercole – Trainee Solicitor

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