The legal confrontation between the two coffee giants has been percolating since at least July 2018, when Peet’s launched a line of capsules that were compatible with the original Nespresso single-cup brewer.
In October of 2018, Nespresso USA issued the first of numerous demand letters to Peet’s, and the company says it has “worked tirelessly for nearly four years to resolve this dispute,” according to the complaint filed last week in the U.S. District Court in New York’s Southern District.
One of the lawsuit’s central issues involves the design, shape and color of a Peet’s line of branded capsules, which Nespresso USA alleges infringes on the original Nespresso capsule “trade dress.” The complaint is particularly concerned with Nespresso pods’ “frustoconical” geometric elements.
“The opaque color, frustoconical top portion, angled and straight sides connecting to the flange of the capsule, circular bottom, and inverted frustoconical indentation at the top of Defendant’s Infringing Capsule appear identical in diameter, height, and width, and confusingly similar in overall appearance, to the Original NESPRESSO Capsule,” the lawsuit states.
The complaint further states that Peet’s use of Nespresso’s name and other trademarks has been unlawful in the sale and marketing of the capsules, while alleging that Peet’s has willfully “duped consumers” into thinking the capsule line was in some way licensed by or affiliated with Nespresso when it was not.
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Since the launch of the capsule line, Peet’s has maintained a disclaimer on its website noting the company’s non-affiliation with Nespresso, although Nespresso USA has argued that that the location of the disclaimer — at the bottom of the Peet’s website — was chosen to be hidden from consumers.
A spokesperson for Peet’s declined DCN’s request for comment on this story, other than to say, “Peet’s Coffee does not comment on pending litigation.”
Nespresso USA is one of seven United States business divisions of Switzerland-based global food giant Nestlé Group. One of driving forces in the specialty coffee movement since its founding in 1966, Peet’s is now the primary U.S. business unit of the merged company JDE Peet’s, which is publicly listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange.
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