| Switzerland

Swiss court rules Nespresso capsule shape cannot be trademarked

Swiss premium coffee company loses long-running court dispute over capsule shape being replicated by competitors in ruling that could have significant ramifications for the wider coffee pod market

Swiss court rules Nespresso capsule shape cannot be trademarked | Photo credit: Nespresso



The Swiss Federal Tribunal has rejected an appeal by Nespresso to trademark the shape of its coffee capsules.  
 

The court ruled against Nespresso, saying its pod design had an ‘ordinary’ and ‘unmemorable’ shape. The decision was based on a study which found just 33% of respondents could identify the Nespresso branded coffee capsule from photographs. 
 

"We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of the Federal Supreme Court," said a Nespresso spokeswoman. 
 

"However, we accept the ruling and will continue to concentrate on offering innovative, high-quality products to all our customers." 
 

The ruling ends a long-running battle for Nestlé, which has sought to prevent replication of its Nespresso pod design and system compatibility.  
 

In September 2011, Nespresso and parent company Nestlé took legal action against Swiss coffee pod company Ethical Coffee, a competitor selling similarly shaped capsules in France and Switzerland.  
 

However, the Vaud state court, which Nestlé used to defend the trademark, ruled against the Swiss food and beverage giant, which led to a high court appeal. 


In Switzerland, patent protections last 20 years from the date of filing, with trademarked brands granted protection for ten years with the possibility of perpetual renewal. Nestlé first filed an application for registration of the capsule shape with the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) in June 2000. 

 

In February 2015, a Nestlé patent for a system used to extract capsules from its Nespresso coffee machines was also ruled invalid by a court in Germany. 
 

The ruling could have significant ramifications for the Swiss food and beverage giant and the wider coffee pod industry. Nespresso had previously complained that failure to protect its pod design could result in an ‘open door’ for copycat manufacturers of Nespresso compatible coffee pods. 


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