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Nestle Wins Backing in Europe for Nespresso System Patent

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA’s Nespresso coffee brand won the backing of the European Patent Office over a disputed patent covering its coffee machine and capsules.

The regulator upheld the existing patent in an “amended form” by a committee of technical experts following objections made by companies including Sara Lee Corp., the office said today in an e-mailed statement. The competing companies have the right to appeal the decision, the Munich-based body said.

Nespresso has sued companies including Sara Lee for alleged patent infringement while rejecting counterclaims. Rivals say their capsules don’t infringe on any patents, seeking to edge in on a market where retail sales may climb 47 percent globally from 2010 to 2015, according to Euromonitor International.

“The decision of the court was positive for our Nespresso” system, Nespresso Chief Executive Officer Richard Girardot said. “Obviously we are satisfied.”

Sara Lee is studying the office’s amendment to determine if it needs to take further steps, Ernesto Duran, a spokesman for Sara Lee based in the Netherlands, said by e-mail.

Nestle has built Nespresso into a brand worth more than 3.5 billion francs ($3.8 billion) after more than a decade of double-digit growth by marketing the coffee as an affordable luxury.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dermot Doherty in Geneva at ddoherty9@bloomberg.net; Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Marley at smarley1@bloomberg.net

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