Brew Me a Cuppa: Refillable Coffee Cartridges Can Enter U.S.

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By Peter Leung

Solofill LLC’s refillable coffee cartridges designed to be compatible with single-serving brewing systems, such as those made by Keurig Green Mountain Inc., shouldn’t be blocked by the International Trade Commission (ITC), a federal appeals court said May 23 ( Rivera v. ITC , Fed. Cir., No. 16-1841, 5/23/17 ).

The holding means Solofill can continue importing its products into the U.S.

Adrian Rivera initiated an ITC Section 337 investigation to block imports of Solofill’s products, alleging they infringed his patent. The ITC declined to do so, ruling that the asserted patent claims were invalid because of a lack of support from the written description .

U.S. Patent No. 8,720,320 covers an “adaptor system for single service beverage brewers,” pointing to a limitation in Keurig machines, which is that they can only use single-serve cup-shaped cartridges, and not “pods,” described as typically flat paper discs filled with coffee. The invention is an adapter that allows Keurig to use pods.

No Support

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the ITC ruling. It said the patent’s written description didn’t support the asserted patent claim. The patent claim doesn’t use the word “pod,” it instead describes a container adapted to hold “brewing material.”

The Solofill product in question is a cartridge that the user fills with coffee grounds, that can be used in place of Keurig’s single-use cartridges.

The problem is that the claim doesn’t make a distinction between the adapter device and the pod itself, the court said. The invention as described in the written description requires the distinction, because the invention is in essence an adapter for coffee pods, the court said.

Because of this, the specification doesn’t support the invention, the court ruled.

Judge Richard Linn wrote the decision, which Judges Jimmie V. Reyna and Raymond T. Chen joined.

Kundu PLLC represented Rivera. The Office of General Counsel argued for the ITC. Mei & Mark LLP represented Solofill.

Solofill’s lawyer told Bloomberg BNA that they’re pleased with the ruling. Rivera’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Leung in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at

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