Sara Lee sued by Nestle for patent abuse

NESTLE is suing US food group Sara Lee in France for patent infringement of its Nespresso coffee system, the Swiss company said yesterday, aiming to protect its top-selling product.

The premium coffee product, which has been growing at double-digit percentage rates, has recently been exposed to competition in France, where Sara Lee as well as Ethical Coffee, founded by former Nespresso chief executive Jean-Paul Gaillard, launched Nespresso-compatible coffee capsules.

“We do not see any reason why Nespresso is initiating legal action against our products as they met all legal requirements,” Ernesto Duran, a spokesman for Sara Lee said.

Nespresso packaged capsules are used in special machines to brew individual cups of espresso.

“Nestle is moving to protect its intellectual property, which is going to be more important than the commodity (coffee) in the corporate food battlefield of the future,” Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said yesterday.