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]