Dear Chufamix community, we’re beyond happy to announce that we won our trial against LIDL, which was held since they plagiarized our Vegan Milker. After months of uncertainty, we can finally rest easy since justice was served.
Thank you so much for all of your support during these hard times.
Here’s Andoni who will explain everything further:
First judgement in our favour! Starting off on a right note, since after all the trials held in Germany, LIDL will have to face another criminal complaint in Spain!
Registering a brand or design is a relatively easy process. However, for an invention to be worth of a patent grant, it needs to comply with some essential requirements, such as being an “inventive action” or “novelty”. It’s the European Patent Office in Munich who is responsible for thoroughly analyzing the invention and consequently granting the patent for the European territory or, as it’s often the case, limiting or denying the use of the patent.
The idea that originated “Vegan Milker” – a kitchen utensil to make “plant milks” from the small company Chufamix SL – which at that time became a kitchen staple in the vegan community in more than 40 countries, managed to be recognized as worthy of the granting of an European patent by the European Patent Office in June 2017, as well as by the Patent Offices in China, the USA or Mexico, among others.
Only a month later, LIDL launched a utensil with a striking resemblance to the “Vegan Milker” by Chufamix S.L. The inventor of the Vegan Milker then received a vast array of complaints for distributors all over the world, who were convinced that a business arrangement with LIDL had been carried out without including them.
Due to the amount of complaints, the inventor sent a friendly request to the German multinational to withdraw its copy, which LIDL promptly ignored, maintaining their sales campaigns all over LIDL’s in Europe and the USA.
Andoni Monforte, its inventor says that ” They photocopied even the drawings in the instruction manual. Instead of trying to disguise this fact using soy or almonds as an example of seeds which the invention can transform into plant drinks, their marketing department in Germany reproduced the same Valencian tigernuts that we had. (Annex 1: comparative dossier). The most surprising thing is that today LIDL continues to deny that the instruction manual was plagiarized”
Given the impossibility of competing in price with LIDL (Vegan Milker is entirely made in Spain, while LIDL manufactures their kitchen utensils in China), distributors from all over the world cancelled their orders (Annex 2: Mails distributors canceling orders). This caused Chufamix S.L to enter an economic loss cycle after having grown for 3 years since it was created. As of 2019, the business hadn’t still started to recover.
Faced with LIDL’s refusal to speak, Chufamix SL went to the Valencian courts filing a complaint for a crime against industrial and intellectual property, admitted for processing, declaring the Spanish, German and Dutch divisions of the German group LIDL investigated.
At the request of the investigating judge, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office and the counterfeiting section of the National Police issued two reports stating that LIDL had faithfully and irrefutably reproduced all the characteristics protected by the patent. (Annex 3, Report from the OEPM to the Judge).
Two years later, the prosecution and the investigating judge who declared that a Valencian court was competent to hear the case, changed their minds, inhibiting themselves in favor of the courts in Cerdanyola del Vallés (Barcelona), where LIDL has its headquarters, leaving the process stalled, a situation which was aggravated by the current pandemic.
LIDL, the second largest distribution group in the world with an annual turnover of more than 100 billion euros, begins at that time a legal campaign against the inventor and founder of Chufamix S.L., Andoni Monforte, as well as against the validity of the European patent.
The company then goes on to hire the most mediatic law firms (among others, those who dealt with tje Nóos case) and files lawsuits against the validity of the inventor’s patent in both Germany and Spain, in addition to a third lawsuit seeking a negative judicial statement about the infringement of patent, further accentuating the complicated economic and commercial situation which the small company Chufamix SL. was immersed in.
In August 2019, “LIDL International” sued the Valencian inventor and asked a German court to rule negatively on the patent infringement. In November 2019, they sued again requesting the Federal Patent Court of Germany (Bundespatentgericht) the nullity of Vegan Milker’s patent in this country, a strategy that he replicates in a commercial court in Spain. Annex 4: first page of the 3 LIDL lawsuits against Andoni Monforte).
The inventor of Vegan Milker is then forced to hire German lawyers as he does not want to lose his patent, while radically changing Vegan Milker’s commercial strategy, with the sole objective of returning to the path of profit, the only way to be able to afford the 4 trials to come.
While 3 years later in Spain the trial is still paralyzed, in Germany just 9 months after LIDL filed the lawsuit against the inventor of Vegan Milker, the German judges set the trial for May 15, 2020 at the Provincial Court (Landgericht) from Mannheim.
On June 19, 2020, the three judges of the 7th Civil Chamber of the German court issue a forceful 23-page judgment: LIDL has infringed the Valencian inventor’s patent and must therefore compensate him. (Annex V: Full Judgment)
LIDL’s harassment strategy turns against it, this ruling in Germany, together with the report of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office in Spain, may set the path for the rest of the trials.
Andoni Monforte, has stated:
<< I am still waiting for LIDL to explain to us how it is possible that the tigernuts and drawings in our instruction manual appear in theirs, or why their utensil is quite the carbon copy of ours.
I wrote a nice letter to LIDL’s owner and CEO, Dieter Schwarz, although they most likely haven’t even sent it to him.
In any case, profiting from a foreign patented idea harming a small business is against the law, whatever your name is. Suing three times taking advantage of its status as a small start-up company, also denotes a tremendous lack of ethics.
We fully trust that the German and Spanish courts will know how to clarify what happened and put everyone in their place >>