For Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., owners of Keurig Inc., its K-Cup IP rights are set to expire on September 16, 2012.
Green Mountain currently has the top market share in the over $1B single-serve coffee market. Once the patents expire, competitors can make their own version of K-cups and theoretically threaten the prospects of the company. Current K-Cup licensees (Dunkin' Donuts, for example) will have little incentive to renew.
Just as IPBlog has reported with respect to biotech and technology transfer offices (read how Sanofli managed the problem), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters must manage the patent cliff (and investors) skillfully, realizing how replacing a 65% sales growth rate with more sustainable levels accompanied by belt tightening will pay long-term benefits.