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Coffee-making machines using disposable ‘capsules’ of raw ingredients are becoming increasingly popular, so a row between two manufacturers of such systems was always on the cards.
In the dispute, Nestec (a subsidiary of Nestlé) claimed that a rival system, manufactured by Dualit, infringed its ‘Nespresso’ patents in Europe. Dualit makes coffee capsules compatible with Nespresso machines.
Nestec’s argument was that by buying coffee capsules and placing them in a Nespresso machine, the user ‘makes’ the system described in the patent.
In the event, the court found that the patent on the Nespresso machine was invalid. However, even if the patent had been valid, merely supplying a consumable which worked with it would not have infringed the patent.
Says Clare Towers, “This decision is very much based on common sense, and distinguishes between something unique and warranting protection and the mere supply of spares and consumables.”