Keurig 2.0 Will Lock Out Unlicensed Coffee Pods And Potential Competition

Poor Keurig. Their K-Cup coffeemakers are immensely popular with consumers, but so are K-Cup-compatible brewing systems and coffee pods made by other manufacturers. That’s okay, though: the brand, part of Green Mountain Coffee, is in the process of developing its next brewer. The Keurig 2.0, you might say. This brewer won’t play nice with any unlicensed coffee pods.

Much like inkjet printers, the real profit in the coffee-pod biz is in selling customers ink or coffee that your company either sells or is earning licensing fees from. Until recently, all disposable coffee pods used in Keurig machines had to be Keurig-licensed. The patent has now expired, and anyone with a coffee business and a dream can make K-Cup compatible coffee pods. The company’s next brewer won’t allow that kind of nonsense. Keurig 2.0 machines will enforce this in the future by using digital rights management (DRM), or the same technology that explains why you can’t send all of your co-workers your iTunes copy of the new Beyonce album.

Of course, the ostensible reason is to keep substandard beverages from being brewed by a Keurig machine. “To ensure the system delivers on the promise of excellent quality beverages produced simply and consistently every brew every time, we use interactive technology to help us perfectly brew all Keurig brew packs,” explained president and CEO Brian Kelley during an earnings call late last year. Translation: if your pods aren’t Keurig-approved and fully licensed, no one will be able to brew them.

Okay, but we’ve known that this was coming since last November. Why is it in the news now? No one outside of the coffee business really seemed to care about this situation until Treehouse Foods filed a lawsuit against Keurig. Who is Treehouse Foods? They’re a maker of K-Cup-compatible pods under brands like Grove Square that regular Keurig users might recognize. In the suit, they accuse Keurig of unfair competition, monopolizing the single-serve brewer market. When the new generation machines lock out all other manufacturers, the company will have even more of an unfair advantage over competitors.

Keurig Will Use DRM In New Coffee Maker To Lock Out Refill Market [Techdirt]
Lawsuit [PDF]

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  1. C0Y0TY says:

    Competition means competing, coming up with products that challenge the competitor’s. It doesn’t mean the competitor has to let you knock off their products without compensation. There is nothing stopping Treehouse from continuing to make K-Cup compatible products for existing machines, or Senseo compatible pods, or developing their own proprietary system, or filling a bag of coffee. Other than laziness.

    • CzarChasm says:

      Totally agree, there is no magic in making a single cup brewing machine, let them make their own.

  2. Raekwon says:

    I wonder how good the gray market for 1.0 machines will be. May have to buy a bunch.

  3. KevinBlah says:

    Lexmark have already lost a lawsuit over other companies circumventing their stupid printer cartridge DRM; Keurig will likely be treated similarly.

    • xvdgry57 says:

      They might be able to pass this off as a public health issue by involving the FDA.
      If I was Keirig I’d:
      (1) explicitly state that using a non-Keurig pod will void the warranty
      (2) light up a warning light and tone on brewing device to alert the user that they are using “an evil imposter’s product” ; this would have to be manually bypassed each time by holding down some button for 5 seconds
      (3) subtly alter brewing parameters (time, heat, amount of water) to sabotage the resultant product produced by non-Keurig pods.

  4. oomingmak says:

    While I don’t want to support Keurig’s decision to do this I still think the best remedy is if you don’t like the deal Keurig is offering — don’t buy a Keurig 2.0.

  5. FusioptimaSX says:

    DRM for coffee??? Absolutely ridiculous.

    I guess my 1.0’s value will be going up!

  6. CommonC3nts says:

    This only works until the first time someone gets “pod read error” on their coffee maker at 7am while trying to get to work by 8am.
    They will throw the thing out of the window.

    I have a large toshiba printer and with a brand new magenta toner it read empty.
    The mfg said the chip was bad on the toner and sent a new toner free of charge.

  7. Naskarrkid says:

    I hope they both lose. Grove Square is just instant coffee, which doesn’t say on the box, unless they’ve changed in the past year or so. I’m not a fan of only buying what Keurig wants me to buy, so I’ll be sticking to my 1.0.

  8. ReverendTed57 says:

    I thought they’d already released “Keurig 2.0″ – the Vue. Not sure about the “DRM” (CRM?) aspect of it; I still have one that uses the original K-Cups.
    The only legitimate argument I could see on Keurig’s behalf is that someone making craptastic K-Cups could (intentionally or accidentally) put in ingredients that damage the units over time and thus lead people to look for more reliable single-serve coffee options when their Keurig brewers keep failing.
    Of course, Keurig already does this to themselves. Their milk-based beverages (hot cocoa, chai, etc) are known to back up into the unit and clog it if you don’t run a small hot-water-only cycle after each brew. With those, it’s best to punch open the K-Cup and dump the powder directly into your cup and mix it yourself.
    …Or buy a less expensive mix and just use the brewer for the water.
    …Or just get hot water out of the microwave and skip Keurig altogether.