Nespresso is sharing details of a key component in its latest coffee machines with rival coffee pod suppliers as it looks to allay claims it is stifling competition.
The Nestlé-owned brand sells its official pods exclusively through its own website or stores, and has taken a tough stance against some suppliers manufacturing pods to be sold through other channels.
But, as Nespresso fights cases of alleged IP rights infringement across Europe, The Grocer can reveal Nestlé last month made public technical specifications of new blades introduced in its latest coffee machines. The blades were modified last July - a month after Mondelez announced it was launching its own Nespresso-compatible coffee pods in Europe. But Nespresso has denied the blades were introduced in response to the Mondelez announcement after reports in European media found that some third-party Nespresso-compatible coffee pods do not work with Nespresso U, Pixie and Inissia machines equipped with the new blades.
“We have decided to share the technical specifications of the new blades to show transparency and answer to recent concerns that our technical innovation was intended to block competition,” said a Nespresso spokesman. “Our machines are not designed to exclude other capsules. We introduced new blades as part of our continuous improvement process.”
Coffee industry experts have been surprised by the release of the technical specifications. With one analyst claiming Nestlé’s legal approach was “in tatters” following the loss of a number of Nespresso patent cases, some feel the release is a public relations move, while others suggest Nestlé may be considering licensing its Nespresso IP to other suppliers.
The Mondelez pods will roll out to UK supermarkets next week under its Carte Noire brand, and will carry a message that they are compatible with all Nespresso machines bought before 1 July 2013, and most after that date. The Carte Noire website specifies the capsules are not compatible with the latest Nespresso machines - the UMilk, UPure, and UMat. Mondelez this week said it was “actively working towards a solution for full compatibility”.
CaféPod, which sells Nespresso-compatible pods and will roll out to 600 Tescos next week, said its pods were compatible with all UK machines. Another UK supplier, Dualit, said its NX Capsules were compatible with all domestic Nespresso machines but not professional or ‘built-in’ models.
Nespresso on: legal action
Nespresso has no cases against pod producers in the UK, but has ongoing action for “infringement of our intellectual property rights” in Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Italy. “We have taken action to protect our rights against a minority of the more than 60 generic offerings that claim compatibility with the Nespresso system,” said a spokesman, adding that it was not attempting to prevent competition. “The patent system exists to support and reward innovation and IP is a positive innovation driver. There are clear rules and a clear process to follow, including legal action, when we believe those rules have been broken.”