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Safeway could be in the middle of an interesting battle with its private label single-cup coffee pods.
The president of its supplier, Rogers Family Co., told Reuters on Thursday that it was making the products for Safeway, but that it did not have a licensing agreement with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to make the product compatible with Green Mountain's Keurig machines.
Rogers already is being sued by Green Mountain for making Keurig-compatible pods under its San Francisco Bay brand. Green Mountain's patents on the Keurig machine generally expire this fall, which led to Kroger's announcement last week that it would enter the single-cup market with a private label product after the expiration.
Rogers President Jon Rogers told Reuters that because his company's pods are made of mesh, rather than Green Mountain's hard-plastic cups, that they believed the products were different and Rogers would prevail in a patent suit. He said the company has been approached by other private label customers in addition to Safeway.
Still, that seems an awfully big risk for Safeway to take to enter the market nine months ahead of private label competition. If Rogers was to lose the suit, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Green Mountain sue Safeway for damages as well, as being the retailer of illegal property.