Quick, come up with some coffee puns and allusions: Keurig, manufacturer of the popular coffeemaker, has lost a patent fight in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
In a decision Thursday, the appellate court upheld a Delaware-based trial judge, who had concluded that Sturm Foods had not infringed on Keurig's patents. It's a win for, among others, attorney Allen A. Arnsten of the Madison, Wisconsin-based law firm Foley & Lardner, who argued on behalf of Sturm Foods.
Okay, this is the point when it might be best to pour yourself a high-test cup of joe, because the decision is, like many from the Federal Circuit, more than a tad technical.
As described by the court, "Keurig manufactures and sells single-serve coffee brewers and beverage cartridges for use in those brewers. Consumers insert a cartridge into the brewer, hot water is forced through the cartridge, and a beverage is dispensed."
Sturm manufactures and sells cartridges for use in Keurig’s brewers under the brand name “Grove Square.” Keurig sued Sturm, alleging that the use of Sturm’s Grove Square cartridges in certain Keurig brewer models directly infringe Keurig's patents.
The appellate panel agreed with Sturm that the notion of "patent exhaustion" carried the day.
"Keurig sold its patented brewers without conditions," the court reasoned, "and its purchasers therefore obtained the unfettered right to use them in any way they chose, at least as against a challenge from Keurig...Keurig is attempting to impermissibly restrict purchasers of Keurig brewers from using non-Keurig cartridges by invoking patent law to
enforce restrictions on the post-sale use of its patented product.