Keurig coffee machine (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
A Colorado federal judge on Thursday threw out a 2012 lawsuit brought by Teashot LLC against Starbucks Corp, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. and Green Mountain unit Keurig Inc. over its patented system for producting single-serving tea extracts with coffee makers.
U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez sided with the defendants in a ruling granting summary judgment. He zeroed in on the material of the lid used on the defendants’ single-serve drink packs and how such material interacted with water.
Teashot’s patent specified use of a capsule constructed with “water permeable” material to allow the flow of fluid. Teashot’s lawyers at Denver-based IP firm Sheridan Ross contended the defendants’ foil lid material qualified as “water-permeable” because water could pass through a hole in the lid after it was punctured.
However, Martinez held that the defendants’ K-Cup portion packs didn’t infringe because the need to puncture a hole in the foil before water could reach the contents indicated that water could not pass directly through the unpunctured foil.
“The lid of the K-Cup is not constructed of a water-permeable material, and, even if it were, water flows through a needle inserted into the K-Cup, and not through the material of the lid itself,” Martinez wrote.
Teashot LLC was founded by Barry Patrick Wesley Cooper, who received U.S. Patent No. 5,895,672 in 1999 for “Product and Process for Preparing a Tea Extract” that used “existing coffee-espresso technology to produce high quality tea-based beverages that are ‘consistent, fast, easy, [and] cost efficient,’” according to Thursday’s judgment.
Starbucks and Green Mountain are represented by Lathrop & Gage; Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks; and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. The companies moved in May 2013 for summary judgment of non-infringement of the patent.
Martinez’s judgment Thursday ruled that the accused products didn’t literally infringe or infringe under the doctrine of equivalents. He also denied as moot Teashot’s motion for partial summary judgment in the case.