Green Mountain Keeps Shaking Hands

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Patents? We don't need no stinkin' patents!

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters continues to strike deals with leading java heavies, even though patent protection for its K-Cups expired back in September.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf -- the country's oldest and largest privately held specialty coffee and tea retailer -- became the latest company to strike a deal with Green Mountain to get its signature beverages sold in K-Cup packs for the Keurig single-cup brewing system.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's K-Cups should hit the market by early next year.

Ever since the two patents governing the Keurig K-Cup portion packs expired eight months ago, there has been little stopping companies from putting out their own K-Cup knockoffs. However, just as Starbucks expanded and extended its partnership with Green Mountain earlier this month, even the companies that could probably get away with marketing compatible portion packs on their own find that it's better to work with Green Mountain than to compete against it.

Starbucks got a sweet perk. It's the lone "super-premium" brand being officially distributed through Green Mountain. However, even a global juggernaut finds it beneficial to warm up to the company behind the best-selling single-serve coffee brewers in the country.

Unilever agreed to get its Lipton tea brand into hot and iced K-Cup portion packs through Green Mountain two months ago. If working directly with Green Mountain is good enough for Unilever, why isn't it good enough for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf?

Green Mountain has done it. It has crossed an intellectual property bridge that could've been rickety. It has many of the big names in coffee working with it -- instead of against it -- and it's gradually introducing new brewers that have fresh patent protection cycles on the refills.

The market's impressed. Shares of Green Mountain have more than quadrupled since bottoming out last year.

Meanwhile, any coffee, tea, or cocoa companies that haven't struck deals with Green Mountain as of yet may want to start practicing their handshaking skills.

Something's brewing
With Green Mountain as cheap as it's ever been, many investors are wondering whether this is the end of the former market darling or the perfect entry point for an enormous rebound. You can find our recommendation for how to play the company in our premium research report. In it, you'll find everything you need to know about Green Mountain, including whether it's a buy at today's prices. Click here for instant access.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The Motley Fool recommends Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Unilever. It recommends and owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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