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Philips/Douwe Egbert Pod Patent

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There has been an interesting development in the patent issues regarding the coffee pods. In Belgium, the Supreme Court has decided that only Douwe Egberts can produce the coffee pods, because they have registered this particular invention. This means that in Belgium, no other producers are allowed to make/sell coffee pods anymore.

Douwe Egberts lost a similar case in the Netherlands a few months ago, but now that they have prevailed in Belgium, this may have interesting implications for the EU, the UK and perhaps the US.

Belgische rechter: alleen DE-koffiepads voor Senseo

Uitgegeven: 7 december 2005 12:51

BRUSSELS/ANTWERPEN - Belgische concurrenten van koffieproducent Douwe Egberts mogen geen eigen speciale zakjes of pads op de markt brengen voor het Senseo-koffiezetapparaat dat samen met Philips is ontwikkeld.

Dat heeft het Hof van Beroep in Antwerpen onlangs besloten, meldde woensdag het Belgische vakblad De Juristenkrant. Het is nog onduidelijk wat de uitspraak betekent voor procedures van Douwe Egberts' moederconcern Sara Lee tegen concurrenten in andere Europese landen.

n diverse landen brachten koffiebranders eigen goedkopere zakjes of pads voor de Senseo-machine op de markt. Sara Lee vroeg daarop het Europees Octrooibureau om een oordeel. Dat heeft echter nog geen definitieve uitspraak gedaan. In de tussentijd stapte Sara Lee naar de rechter in onder meer Nederland, Belgi en Duitsland.

In Belgi werd de concurrentie eerder toch het recht gegeven eigen pads te verkopen. In beroep is dat recht nu teruggedraaid, waardoor Douwe Egberts in Belgi weer vrij spel zou heben op de Senseo-markt.

Translates from Dutch roughly as:

Belgian competitors of coffee producer Douwe Egberts can no longer create special pods (indivually or in bags) and bring them on the market for use with the Senseo-Coffee Maker that it has been developed with Philips.... It is still unclear what this means for competitors in other European countries. In several countries, coffee roasters produce cheaper pods for the Senseo-machine. Sara Lee asked the European patent office for a judgement. The results of the patent office is still unknown. In the meantime, Sara Lee went to court in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. In Belgium the competition was earlier given the right to produce their own pods, therefore allowing competition. When Sara Lee appealed, that right is now reversed, which has as a result of that Douwe Egberts "owns" the coffee pods market in Belgium.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Pod will eat itself?

Personally, I'd be delighted to see protectionism driving pods out of the market. Er...(*checking earlier threads*) but I see you don't agree Jason.


Sheffield, where I changed,

And ate an awful pie

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No, I certainly don't agree. I like the pod variety of coffee a lot -- you're going to be seeing a number of pod and machine reviews here in the future, actually.

In one sense I can appreciate patents. I am involved in a business venture unrelated to the food industry where patents are key. But I don't think that Philips and Douwe Egberts have "prior art" if I am using that term correctly -- Teabags and such have been in use for a very long time, and the coffee pod is just a variation on that. Its not a "basic patent", so I am not sure the argument would even fly in the US or in other places in Europe.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I doubt that the pod could be seen as much more than a variation on the prepacked filter pouches of drip coffee that come in a flat circular shape. The ones that hotels often provide with the little four cup drip makers in the room.

The key is the machine itself. If you copy someone's brewing mechanism or if they offer a very unique shape to the filter holder whereby only a very specific design of pod will fit and work - then there's more of a basis for patent protection.

I don't see pod coffee systems every overtaking conventional drip coffee in terms of market penetration but agree with Jason that we'll see more and more of it soon.

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don't see pod coffee systems every overtaking conventional drip coffee in terms of market penetration but agree with Jason that we'll see more and more of it soon.

Its definitely more of a market expansion than a paradigm shift, yes.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The pod material is not at all like the teabag material I buy. It is a lot tougher - it should be, to stand up to the water/steam being forced through it.

I think we will see more and more of this type of machine - the price on the Senseo has dropped - I believe they are now selling at Costco for less than $50.00.

As I have mentioned before, they are ideal in places where appliances with exposed heat surfaces are not allowed - my usual example, dorm rooms. And in assisted senior living residences where regular coffee makers are forbidden in the rooms.

We have them in my office - started with one, now have three.

Three people I know who have motorhomes have gotten them because there is nothing worse to clean up than debris from a coffee maker that was not secured when the rig moved and a full carafe of coffee, plus the soggy grounds flew all over the place.

And one other consideration is that each person can have the type of coffee they prefer, they don't have to settle for what has been brewed. The various types are instantly available, cup by cup.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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It's also worth noting that many peopel drink only one cup per day or else space out their two cups far aprt enough that it makes no sense to brew a full pot. Full size (10 - 12 cup) auto drip makers don't do a good job with less than four cups and even the little four cup brewers don't do well making less than two.

I'm so accustomed to just making a quick cup with the tea kettle, a Melitta one cup cone and some fresh ground beans that it seems like second nature. But I can easily understand why it seems like such a chore to peopel and I agree that it is easy.

I may even buy one for my dad. My mother wants only decaf in the house for drip coffee and won't brew anything else. He drinks only a cup or two a day at his age but he loves decent quality caffeinated coffee. This might be a good choice for him.

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