In a federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, Nespresso USA Inc alleged Peet’s Coffee’s coffee pods infringe Nespresso’s trademark rights for its capsule design.

It is alleged that Peet’s similar capsules cause confusion between customers, leading them to believe the pods are associated with Nestle’s Nespresso. The issue is made more confusing to the consumer, says the company, because Peet’s advertises as compatible with Nespresso machines.

Peet’s declined to comment, but when we reviewed the case, we saw it had gone back several years, with the filings referring to their website and packaging from 2018.

Coffee pods have sparked various legal battles in recent years, and Nespresso has, on occasion, been the defendant in some of those lawsuits. Nespresso claims that Peet’s sells coffee capsules “nearly identical” to Nespresso’s, with the same “frustoconical” tops and opaque colours.

Nespresso also said Peet’s capsules are likely to cause confusion and that some customers have already been confused, noting several internet product reviews of Peet’s pods that call them Nespresso pods.

Nespresso said in the lawsuit that it has applied for a federal trademark registration covering its pod design. It asked the court to award it Peet’s profits from the allegedly infringing capsules and tripled money damages.

(Nespresso has) Spent many years and invested millions of dollars” cultivating its “unique experience

A Nespresso spokesperson said the company had “spent many years and invested millions of dollars” cultivating its “unique experience”. Peet’s had refused to stop infringing its intellectual property after it asked.

I went back in time to 2018 and found a version of Peet’s website selling coffee capsules. The design of the Crema Scura capsule, for example, hasn’t changed from the way it looks today.

Indeed, it’s the same shape as the Nespresso capsule. Every other compatible capsule is made of aluminium, but that’s where the similarity ends. Peets uses vibrant colour, but it’s a two-tone pattern, unlike Nespresso’s single colour. Peet’s also has a big number on each capsule, whereas Nespresso is a solid colour. Then there’s the fact that Peet’s coffee has their Peet’s logo in big letters across the front of the box.

I don’t think that people on the internet referring to them as Nespresso capsules indicates confusion; it’s just an abbreviation of ‘Nespresso-compatible. I’m no lawyer, but it’s difficult for me as a layman to see the merit in Nespresso’s case.

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