Thermomix is the trend – but many people also like to use the very similar and much cheaper model from Lidl, known as Monsieur Cuisine Connect. Lidl has just been convicted in Spain of patent infringement against Vorwerk’s Thermomix patent. Will the Lidl Monsieur Cuisine still be available in other countries?
Thermomix- internationally famous kitchen robot
Vorwerk’s Thermomix hit a new trend at just the right time: more cooking and smoothie blending at home with as much support as possible. Thermomix is represented in more than 60 countries and is considered the market leader in the field of kitchen robots with its Thermomix. No wonder that other companies were also happy to flirt with a similar own product.
A particularly well-known and popular alternative to Lidl’s Thermomix is a kitchen mixer called Monsieur Cuisine Connect, which is strikingly similar to Vorwerk’s Thermomix Original in many respects, but is considerably cheaper.
Now a verdict of unauthorized imitation of the Thermomix has been handed down in Spain. Last week, the Commercial Court in Barcelona ruled in favor of Vorwerk and held that the Lidl’s kitchen mixer constituted an infringement of Vorwerk’s patent rights.
Vorwerk holds EP patent
This is because Vorwerk has been the owner of the European patent “Kitchen Machine” (EP 1269 898) since 2002, which has also been validated for Spain. Vorwerk invoked this patent and claimed patent infringement by the Lidl clone of the Thermomix, especially with regard to the Thermomix® scale and its interaction with the blades as well as the appliance cover. In particular, the function of weighing food in the original Thermomix and also in the Lidl clone of the Thermomix decided the infringement proceedings in favor of Vorwerk.
This is because the function of weighing is carried out in the Thermomix thanks to a special technology that is independent of the circuit that controls the movement of the jar. This feature enables weighing when the machine is running, when the jar is closed and working with the lid, and when the machine is at rest but switched on by pouring food into the jar – and has been replicated 1:1 in the Lidl imitation.
Spanish court ruled in favor of Thermomix
The Barcelona Commercial Court therefore ruled in favor of Thermomix and Vorwerk. Lidl was ordered to remove its Monsieur Cuisine kitchen mixer from the Spanish market and to stop all advertising for this product. Lidl must also pay damages to Vorwerk.
In the course of the patent infringement proceedings, Lidl, for its part, also filed a lawsuit against Vorwerk; Lidl is filing a motion to invalidate the Thermomix patent. This is a common action against long-standing patents. A nullity action was also brought against the predecessor patent of a kitchen mixer to the current Thermomix even before the German Federal Patent Court (2 Ni 20/13 (EP), in 2015)-but to no avail. Lidl’s current application for invalidity was also rejected by the Spanish court. The Spanish court ruled that the Thermomix invention met the requirements of novelty and inventive step.
This has no direct implications for Germany or other states than Spain. This is because patent law is a territorial right, it only applies in the country in which the patent was validated – and its rights must also be defended individually in each country. However, Lidl will still be weighing up whether further sales of the Thermomix clone are still worthwhile after the Spanish ruling. And Vorwerk will tactically decide whether and in which countries to file a lawsuit against Lidl for patent infringement.
Because the Spanish judgement has increased the likelihood that other courts will issue similar rulings. Although Lidl can still appeal in Spain, the Spanish proceedings mean that the two kitchen mixers, Thermomix and Monsieur Cuisine, have already been compared in detail by technical experts. If their findings cannot be shaken, Lidl ultimately risks high compensation costs if it continues to sell its Thermomix clone – including sales outside Spain.
For the time being, Lidl will continue to offer the Monsieur Cuisine in its online store – and via Amazon.
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