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Nestle loses patent infringement case relating to coffee machine refills

April 30, 2013

Nespresso machineJudge rules UK company making capsules for Nespresso coffee machines does not infringe patents.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Swiss confectionary company Nestle has lost its fight against a company that makes and sells coffee capsules for refilling Nespresso coffee machines, which was accused by Nestle of infringing patents relating to its refill packs.

It was ruled that UK-based Dualit Ltd.’s products do not infringe Nestle’s patents, with Judge Richard Arnold stating that Nespresso customers “would assume that they were entitled to obtain capsules to use with the machine from whatever source they pleased”.

The case mirrors another reported last year involving Nestle and two companies that sold the coffee capsules in Germany, with Dusseldorf regional court ruling against Nestle’s accusations of patent infringement for the same reasons as the court in the UK, adding that the capsules were essential to the functioning of the Nespresso machine and were neither a key part or feature.

The Recycler’s David Connett noted in his blog post on the subject that “there are very obviously strong synergies in the concept of coffee machine and pods and printers and cartridges” but warned the aftermarket to “be very cautious because this decision is only valid in Germany and does not set any precedents for the printer market where very strong IP and case law exists”.

Nestle reportedly sold around $4.2 billion (€3.2 billion) worth of Nespresso products in 2012, but claims that its revenue is under threat from competitors selling coffee capsules for its machines. Diane Duperret, a spokesperson for Nestle, argued that the judgement “is inconsistent with the ruling by the European Patent Office in April 2012, confirming the validity of a key patent for the Nespresso system”.

Nestle is no longer reporting its sales details due to “the competitive environment”, and suffered its slowest first quarter sales growth since 2009, with the company expecting full-year revenue to be at the lower end of its forecast.

The Recycler reported last week on another patent infringement case, in which it was ruled that a company manufacturing and selling a plastic bottle for use in an IDC container did not infringe the patents of the original manufacturer of IDC containers, as the bottle was deemed a subsidiary part of the overall product. It was also noted that customers would expect the bottle to need replacing due to having a shorter lifespan than the metal cage it slotted into.

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