The German Handelsblatt newspaper is reporting that the German Federal Patent Court based in Munich has declared invalid "Nestlé’s patent for the Nespresso coffee system”. It’s part of a long-running dispute between the former CEO of the Nespresso division, Jean-Paul Gaillard, and his former employer. Mr. Gaillard started up a rival company the Ethical Coffee Company offering biodegradable capsules.
Given that Nestlé has, apparent 1,700 patents on its system (at least according to this New York times article), the revoked patent probably only represents one of aspect of the Nespresso system, but probably a key one for competitive capsules. The market for such coffee capsules is apparently EUR 13 US billion dollars annually, of which Nestlé apparently have a CHF 4 US billion (according to the Handelsblatt). Clearly the loss of any key patents could dent significantly Nestlés share of the market.
It’s not the first time that Nestlé have lost against the Ethical Coffee Company, since the Düsseldorf Regional Court had already refused an emergency injunction in 2012 (reported in the Financial Times) on the grounds that purchasing a machine gave the user a right to use the device. Nestlé were reported to have abandoned their complaint in 2014
This blogger regularly deposits into his rubbish bin a bag-full of capsules and would certainly be keen to buy ecologically friendly capsules instead of filling up the local rubbish dump. To date his local supermarket - just outside of Munich - has not offered any alternative capsules and so he has not had any choice. It’s not clear whether he will get that choice in the near future, because Nestlé can still appeal to the German Federal Court in Karlsruhe.
Somebody was kind enough to sen me the patent number: EP 1 646 305 as well as a link to the press release from the Federal Patent Court
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