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Why Black Hand Coffee must alter pod plan

Black Hand’s single-serving coffee cups. (PHOTO: Black Hand)

Black Hand’s single-serving coffee cups. (PHOTO: Black Hand)

RICHMOND, Va. (RichmondBizSense.com) – The coffee business can get bitter.

Richmond-based Black Hand Coffee Co.’s recent efforts to market a new product line were met with pushback from a large competitor, throwing a wrench in the company’s plans.

Black Hand owner Clay Gilbert said he received a cease-and-desist letter in January from a law firm representing Green Mountain Coffee Roasters related to language he used to promote Black Hand’s new line of single-serving coffee pods.

The letter demanded that Gilbert stop using the term “K-cup” and begin describing his single-serving cups generically, although Gilbert said Green Mountain Coffee Roasters does allow him to note on Black Hand’s packaging that the single-serving cup can be used for Keurig coffee machines.

Green Mountain “has and will continue to take steps to protect its trademarks, including use of its registered K-Cup trademark,” the company’s vice president of corporate communications and investor relations Suzanne DuLong said in an email regarding the Black Hand situation.

Although he has complied with Green Mountain’s demands, Gilbert said he’s run into another obstacle.

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