Product Design

Keurig Tries to Kill Reusable K-Cups

Keurig is releasing a new coffee-brewing system later this year that the company says will give users “game-changing performance.” And the system is, indeed, game-changing—but for all the wrong reasons. The new coffeemaker will have the unique ability to lock owners out for using off-brand coffee pods.

Reusable K-cup being used in a Keurig

Brian Kelley, CEO of Green Mountain Coffee (which owns the Keurig brand), kept most details of Keurig 2.0 under wraps. But he did drop this bomb  during a recent earnings call:

“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. Because of this the system will not brew unlicensed packs.”

Well, that’s one way to deal with the reusable, third-party coffee pods that have been nipping at Green Mountain Coffee’s bottom line: just design your new coffee-pot-bot to only brew Keurig-brand coffee. TechDirt called the Evil-Plotting-Raccoon-esque tactic “the java-bean equivalent of DRM.” Predictably, TreeHouse Foods, Inc.—makers of a generic K-cup—has filed a lawsuit against Green Mountain Coffee.

This isn’t the first time manufacturers have tried to lock customers out for using unauthorized components. When Lexmark tried to stop customers from using remanufactured ink cartridges in printers, it spawned a decade-long court case that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. Elements of the case remain unresolved, but the courts told Lexmark to knock it off when it came to refurbs. It’ll be interesting to see how this Keurig case plays out.