Private Label Coffee Company Wins Keurig Patent Suit

The Rogers Family Company, which makes private label single-serve coffee for Safeway among other business, announced Wednesday that it had won a patent lawsuit filed by Keurig over Rogers’ OneCup product.

The case involved three Keurig patents. The Rogers Family Company launched its OneCup line, under its San Francisco Bay brand, in the fall of 2011 and began selling it in Safeway stores in mid-2012, before Keurig’s patents were set to expire that fall.

“I am pleased to announce that the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled that the Rogers Family Company’s OneCup products do not infringe any of the Keurig patents,” Rogers Family Company President Jon B. Rogers said in a news release. “This is a great victory for the Rogers family and our customers.  There is no longer any doubt about our ability to sell our OneCup products for use in Keurig brewers.”

The Rogers Family Company argued that its OneCup product was unique, breakthrough technology produced after years of research and study.

For the design patent, the court compared the Rogers design with the Keurig design. The court first addressed whether certain features of the cartridge were functional or ornamental, finding that the circular lid of both designs was ornamental, as was the depending skirt, or ring to which the filter is attached. 

The “general tapered shape” of the filter affects the quality of the beverage cartridge, so it is a functional feature.  The specific type of tapered filter shape was ornamental. 

The court then found that the overall appearance of the Rogers cartridge was plainly dissimilar to the Keurig design, and a consumer would note that the one was substantially similar to the other, the release stated.

For the two utility patents, the court first addressed the apparatus claim, finding that Keurig’s rights under the asserted claim were exhausted once it sells the brewer, because it indisputably sells, or licenses others to sell, both the brewer and the filter cartridge.

The court then addressed the method claim. Relying on a Delaware court’s decision in the Sturm case, the court found that the Keurig brewers were sold as completed products and that the “substantial embodiment” test did not apply. The court also found that because Keurig’s rights in the brewers were exhausted once they were sold, customers had the right to buy replacement cartridges from whatever source they choose, the release stated.

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