It was a story as old as the history of capitalism. Vorwerk had been marketing a food processor for decades, so successful that the market concept “food processor” was interchangeable with the name of their product, “ThermomixUntil Lidl arrived. The German giant took good note of Vorwerk’s lessons, designed its own robot, in this case called “Monsieur Cuisine” and put it up for sale at a cheaper price.
It was a success. One that threatened a hitherto undisputed hegemony. Vorwek, filed a complaint for patent violation, the Commercial Court No. 5 of Barcelona approved it and Lidl had to withdraw a Monsieur Cuisine of its supermercados.
All this happened a year ago. Lidl naturally filed an appeal. And the has ended up winning: today the Provincial Court of Barcelona has upheld your appeal and has considered the patent infringement “null”. The magistrates have understood first that Vorwerk illegitimately extended the patent in the course of the complaint, and also that “there is no infringement” by incorporating Monsieur Cuisine some novel aspects with respect to the original Thermomix design (for example the lid opening system while the agitator arm works).
Lidl will be able to market its kitchen robot again. The ruling, however, does not put an end to the dispute between the two companies. Vorwerk can still (and is likely to) appeal to the Supreme Court.
as we saw At the time, the matter gave rise to judicial fluctuations for various reasons. The main one: the basic Thermomix patents expired years ago, and Vorwerk only retains some rights to certain mechanisms in its food processor. Lidl took advantage of the ambiguity to launch your own robot kitchen, but it was not the only one. There are multiple versions for sale marketed by different brands. Versions threatened, in part, by the original court ruling.
The ruling of the Provincial Court is striking largely for the reasons it sets out. Regarding the cover of contention:
The conclusion we reach is that there is no infringement because the defendant’s food processor does not reproduce that sequence necessary for it to be possible to intervene safely in the stirring vessel. In the Lidl food processor, the lid can be opened without the need for any prior action, that is, without the need to previously stop the agitator mechanism and it is this opening or unlocking of the lid by means of a small turn on its axis that determines the stoppage of the agitator mechanism, although not immediately.
In other words, Monsieur Cuisine is less safe than Thermomix in some mechanisms. And therefore does not violate the patent in question. The last word on case Lidl/Thermomix will have the Supreme.