California Intellectual Property Blog


Green Mountain Coffee Roaster’s Patent Expiration Could Create Glut Of K-Cup Copies

coffee_beans-200x133San Diego – In a scenario akin to a science-fiction movie script, the coffee filtration system marketplace could soon be flooded with clones. Fortunately, it is anticipated that the clones won’t be dangerous to anyone except perhaps those folks attempting to brew the perfect cup of coffee. For the connoisseur of that perfect cup of freshly brewed joe, there will be an anxious watch on the grocery store isle very soon, since Green Mountain Coffee Roaster’s (GMCR) patents 5,325,765 and 5,840,189 will either partially or completely expire in September 2012.

When the initial patents for K-Cup’s expire, industry experts are predicting a glut of cheap K-Cup knock-offs. As a result, company shares were down and investors appear worried. However, GMCR insists that there is no reason for investors or consumers to fret. It points to evidence provided by Keurig, the original creator of the K-Cup coffee filter system. Upon hearing of concerns, Keurig acknowledged that the method initially utilized by the K-Cup coffee filter is mediocre at best and has since been replaced by a better cartridge (patent 6,645,537) which will not expire until 2020. However, even its most recent patents did not completely satisfy Research and Development at GMCR.

Pending patent application 20050051478 is intended to protect the superior coffee filtration system utilized in the most recent version of the K-Cup, which is currently in the marketplace. Moreover, the filter design covered in the two expiring patents has not been used since the inception of the K-Cup. The coffee company anticipates that research on the demographic for Keurig buyers indicates that its customers would not likely sacrifice quality for a few pennies per cartridge. Consequently, GMCR insists that consumers educate themselves and be aware that clones of the products covered in original K-Cup patents may reap cost savings, but will brew a lower quality cup of coffee.

GMCR has developed a reputation for guarding its patents very carefully and lists all applicable patent information on its product packing, including those patents still pending. Additionally, the coffee company has been known to vigorously defend itself using patent infringement litigation (several cases are still ongoing) whenever necessary.


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