The Regional Court of Düsseldorf decided that the sale of cheaper coffee capsules of competitive producers is not prohibited in Germany. The capsules are not essential for the patented Nespresso-system.
Nestlé’s Nespresso-machine is more than just a coffee-machine – it is a lifestyle product for coffee enthusiasts. Nestlé spends enormous sums on advertising and made Geroge Cloony to be the key figure of its campaigns. The 16 Premium Blends are exclusively sold via the Internet and a small selection of Nespresso boutique-stores. However, premium coffee enjoyment has its price, customers pay up to 39 Cents per cup. Nestlé-affiliate Nestec is holder of the patent of the Nespresso-system. Until 2011 owners of a Nespresso-machine had no other choice but buying Nespresso’s original capsules. But in 2011 two other Swiss companies started to sell coffe-capsules “suitable for Nespresso-machines” for a cheaper price. The sale of a substitute for Nespresso’s original capsules would counteract on Nespresso’s exclusive distribution system, therefore Nestec sued the two Swiss companies for patent infringement in Germany.
Recently the Regional Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf rejected the motion for an injunction (see cases 4b O 81/12 and 4b O 82/12). The Court decided that selling coffee capsules “suitable for Nespresso machines” does not infringe with Nestec’s patent on the Nespresso-system. The Judges were of the opinion that owners of Nespresso machines would not expect that the machines can only be run by using Nespresso’s original capsules. The user of the coffee-machines are entitled to use it as intended, and are therefore generally entitled to use capsules of other manufacturers. The capsules are certainly essential for operating the patented machine, but they are not its functional heart.
Nestec may appeal against this decision in the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf.