The production of capsules for coffee is free

The coffee maker capsules market gained a lot of attention and during the past few years, we have witnessed arguments between the producers for the exclusive rights to sell them. It’s obvious that if every producer can easily deny a competing company the production and distribution of a coffee maker similar to that of said producer, then the issue gets complicated concerning the capsules per se which seem to lack any form of protection.

However, the exclusive rights are guaranteed indirectly, since coffee maker manufacturers make them so that they can only work with a uniquely shaped capsule, which is protected and registered as a design, or even patented along with the coffee dispensing method. It’s a fact that the market is rather sectoral and until now, except some cases, those that produce coffee makers have managed to keep exclusive rights on capsules production too.

This situation could change soon as a consequence of a recent decision made by the Court of Turin (currently as a precautionary and not final measure), since it recognized the right to reproduce coffee capsules compatible with coffee makers from another manufacturer. The case involved two very important companies, the Caffè Vergnano on one side and Nestlé on the other, owner of the patents and trademarks for the Nespresso system. The point at issue was the breach of patents and the Nespresso trademark caused by the use of the “Espresso 1882” symbol on Vergnano’s behalf and for the caption “compatible with Espresso makers”. The Court has ordained that no breachery has taken place, since the Nespresso patent protects a system where capsules are included but not the capsules themselves, while, on the other side, Vergnano’s capsules are different.

Furthermore, as far as the trademark is concerned, the two symbols are independent from each other and they don’t copy one another. Nevertheless, it seems the Court has also ordered the “compatible with Espresso makers” caption to be replaced with “capsules compatible with makers Citiz, Lattissima, Pixie and Essenza, Nespresso creations”.