Swiss food group Nestle said on Tuesday that it had launched legal action in France against US rival Sara Lee over alleged breach of patent of its Nespresso coffee capsules.
The US food and beverage groups was one of the first companies, along with French supermaket chain Casino, to market coffee capsules that are compatible with Nespresso coffee macines, competing head on with the Swiss-based food multinational.
"We have initiated legal proceedings in France against Sara Lee for patent infringement of our Nespresso coffee system," a Nestle spokesman said in an e-mail statement.
"We welcome fair competition, we even thrive under it. But we will always take appropriate steps to defend our intellectual property rights when these have been infringed," he added.
Nespresso has been one of Nestle's biggest money spinners in recent years, helped by the group's ability to keep a monopoly over the supply of specially designed aluminium capsules and their coffee due to the patents on its system.
Launched in 1986, it generated a 2.77 billion Swiss francs (1.98 billion euros, 2.43 billion dollars) in sales last year, growing by 22 percent over the previous year, according to the company.