Bird & Bird helps win 5 year European coffee war

31 August 2006

Dutch manufacturers triumph in patent battle against Sara Lee relating to Senseo coffee system

International law firm Bird & Bird, along with Dutch patent agent firm Nederlandsch Octrooibureau has been representing Dutch retail chain Vomar Voordeelmarkt B.V. in a major European dispute which reached its ultimate conclusion in the European Patent Office yesterday. The case, which has been battled out in the European courts for 5 years, has significant implications for companies who make and sell coffee pads for the universally known Senseo coffee machine which is branded by Philips and Sara Lee.

Yesterday, the European Patent Office in Munich completely revoked Sara Lee’s patent which aimed to protect an assembly of pad holder and pad. This would also have prevented the European production and sale of pads for the Senseo coffee machine by other companies, despite the fact that these pads were in use for years.

For the past 5 years, Bird & Bird has been representing Dutch as well as Belgian manufacturers on this case using arguments based on the lack of inventive steps. Although Bird & Bird succeeded in achieving a successful outcome in 2003 in Dutch preliminary injunction proceedings against Sara Lee at both the Court of Appeal in The Hague and the Dutch Supreme Court, yesterday’s entire revocation of the patent now makes it completely clear that Sara Lee is not entitled to monopolize the manufacture and sale of coffee pads.

IP partner, Armand Killan, who has been leading proceedings for Vomar Voordeelmarkt said:

“This decision is not only very welcome but very justified. There was some surprise when Sara Lee in early 2001 started to fight European producers and retailers selling the coffee pads for the Senseo coffee machine, because these coffee pads were known for years prior to Sara Lee’s patent. Sara Lee’s subsequent strategy to monopolize the production and sale of those pads for the Senseo machine in relation to this patent has now come to an end and offers European producers and resellers of coffee pads the freedom to operate their businesses”.

For more information on this case, please contact Armand Killan on +31 70 353 88 24.
For more information on Bird & Bird please call Natalie Arestis on +44 20 7905 6248.

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Notes to Editors

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