I got a pleasant surprise when I went to Wegmans over the weekend. Wegmans now has its own brand of single-serve coffee pods, known as “K-cups.” They cost $5.99, up to $3 less than the big brands.
Wegmans is among the grocers taking advantage of the expiration of Green Mountain’s patent on K-cups. This is good news for consumers, as the store brands are cheaper. But it could be very bad news for Green Mountain. K-cups for Green Mountain are what film was for Kodak. Green Mountain sells its Keurig coffee machines cheap and banks on people buying lots of K-cups.
Green Mountain has sued the makers of these generic K-cups. Reuters reports:
Green Mountain has said it expects to continue to benefit from its scale and expertise in manufacturing K-Cups, and that it will “aggressively defend” its intellectual property.
Green Mountain has dozens of patents governing the brewers, the K-Cups and the interaction between the brewers and cups. The company has already sued Rogers and Sturm Foods, a unit of TreeHouse Foods (THS.N), for selling Keurig-compatible cups that allegedly infringe its patents.
Rogers’ president, Jon Rogers, told Reuters he was confident that he would prevail in the patent fight, saying his cup is as different from the K-Cup as “apples and oranges” – the K-Cup is made of plastic, while the Rogers cup is made of mesh.
Some patent experts wouldn’t be surprised if Green Mountain sued grocers who sell the generic K-cups. The Wegmans box doesn’t indicate who makes its K-cups. It does say “patent application pending for capsule technology.”
Skeptics say Green Mountain could go the way of Kodak. Supporters say it offers a superior product and the generic stuff made with slightly different coffee pods doesn’t taste as good.
I bought Wegmans dark roast. I like very strong, black coffee. The Wegmans K-cups don’t have the same strong aroma or flavor. I’m going to try other roasts. But I do like the price.
Links of the Day:
– Kids say the new healthy school lunch rules leave them hungry. I lost all sympathy when a student complained 850 calories is not enough for lunch.
– Is the Time Warner modem fee new – or not?
– What if the collective-living, nose-ring-wearing candidate who’s talking issues decides the Buerkle-Maffei race?
– Syracuse is launching a campaign to reduce infant deaths related to unsafe sleep – and it’s targeting men.