Nestlé has said it is ‘disappointed’ by a European Patent Office (EPO) decision to revoke a patent for its Nespresso coffee pod system.
The decision overrules a previous EPO decision from April 2012, which had maintained the patent in an amended form, which covered the way capsules were ejected from the machine after use. The EPO's ruling is final for all 28 countries of the European Union.
“We believe that the decision fails to recognise the unique innovations inherent in the design of the Nespresso system,” Nestlé said in a statement, adding that the ruling would not affect its Nespresso business or legal cases that the company has brought against producers of generic capsules.
“While disappointing, the ruling does not have any impact on the current competitive situation,” it said.
The EPO said it would detail the reasons for its decision in the coming weeks.
Nestlé has invested heavily in its Nespresso brand over the past few years, and total sales of the brand hit 3bn Swiss francs (about €2.4bn) on 20% growth in 2011. However, sales growth has slowed as copycat capsules have come onto the market, and there are now about 100 other portioned coffee products available around the world.
So far, all Nestlé’s legal attempts to block rival coffee pod launches have been rejected in court.
“The protection of our intellectual property is an important component of our business strategy. However, our success will continue to be driven by our ability to exceed consumer expectations by delivering products and services of exceptional quality. This focus has allowed us to maintain our position as the reference in the portioned coffee category,” the company said.
Nestlé said it would wait for the written decision of the EPO ruling before determining next steps in pending legal cases.