Los Angeles – Keurig, Inc., a Massachusetts corporation well known for its single-serve coffee makers and cartridges, was dealt a blow in Massachusetts federal court Friday when its patent infringement lawsuit against Rogers Family Company was dismissed. The dispute was over patents held by Keurig for its single-serve coffee cartridges, which the company claimed Rogers copied.
Rogers Family Company, a San Francisco-based LLC, designed a single-serving coffee cartridge for use in Keurig brand coffee making machines. Rogers has been selling its OneCup line of coffee pods under its San Francisco Bay brand since Fall 2011.
The lawsuit, filed in November 2011, claimed that Rogers’ coffee cartridge infringed on three of Keurig’s patents, one for design and two utility patents related to methods.
U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV made an unfavorable ruling against Keurig on the case brought against JBR, Inc., the holding company for Rogers Family Co. With respect to the design patent, he reasoned that the coffee cartridges were different enough that they did not rise to the level of infringement. He further found that the method patents could no longer be enforced.
Keurig claimed in the lawsuit that Rogers’ pod was too similar to its protected design. Keurig was issued its design patent, U.S. Patent Number D502,362, in 2005 for “an ornamental design for a disposable coffee cartridge.” Judge Saylor disagreed with Keurig’s argument, stating that the Rogers’ cartridges look different enough that an ordinary person could tell them apart and therefore that they did not violate Keurig’s patent.
The other issue raised in the lawsuit was Keurig’s claim that by designing a pod to use in Keurig coffee makers, Rogers violated the method patents held by Keurig. The method patents, U.S. Patent Numbers 7,165,488 and 7,347,138 both titled “Brew chamber for a single serve beverage brewer,” describe the process of inserting the Keurig cartridge into the coffee machine and operating it. Keurig argued that its method patents should prevent other companies from designing a product for use in a Keurig brand coffee maker.
Judge Saylor flatly denied this claim, arguing that once Keurig began selling their brewing machines, they exhausted their method patent. Accepting Keurig’s logic, he argued, would mean that any customer who bought the machine would be liable for patent infringement if they did not use a Keurig brand cartridge to brew coffee.