An upgraded mesh design for the plunger was patented (US 2,053,021) by another Italian, Bruno Cassol, in 1935. This is still commonly used inside French press designs today. Together with a coarser grind this expanded mesh design brewed a cleaner cup of coffee. Two decades later Faliero Bondanini of Lausanne Switzerland received a patent (US 2,900,896) for his version of the French press. The design appeared on paper like a flexible colander and it worked a bit like overlapping bird wings. This offered no relative improvement over other coffee presses of the day but he received a patent and was able to successfully market his design back to the French under the name “Chambord.” By the early 1960s the Chambord was so prevalent in French homes that the name became inextricably linked with a French pedigree.
The factory that made Bondanini's version of the Chambord was located in France. Factory owner Louis-James de Viel Castel wanted to market the French press to the UK so he began distributing the same model under the name La Cafetiere Classic. This literally means “coffee maker” in French. A brilliant marketing ploy in multilingual Europe, then name La Cafetiere was then, and is now, as closely linked to the associated product as the U.S. company Xerox was to copy machines in their heyday. No one gave it a second thought when the Danish company Bodum asked to distribute the Chambord model in Denmark in the 1970s. Eventually though Bodum purchased the company in 1991, Louis-James de Viel Castel sold rights to the Chambord trademark with the factory but not the name or distribution of his La Cafetiere concern.
In 2008 La Cafetiere started selling the Classic model in the U.S. Bodum already had a solid hold on the U.S. market for French presses. They sued La Cafetiere for trademark infringement. While the La Cafetiere Classic and Chambord are nearly identical products, a judge ruled that they were different enough and furthermore that the wording on Bodum's contract was too ambiguous to enforce. La Cafetiere continues to sell the Classic in the U.S. but Bodum has not backed down. Other trademark infringement cases have been tried and Bodum did win in Australian courts in 2011.
In the end, as in the beginning, it all boils down to coffee. The French press (or whatever you would prefer to call it) is an affordable manual and highly portable style of making coffee. With fresh ground coffee and boiling water you can create a carefully crafted cup of coffee at home or wherever the day takes you. Many people begin their life-long love affair with coffee via a French press. Although the current pour over coffee craze has eclipsed the French press, it remains relevant. You don't need to pick sides in the French press controversy to enjoy a freshly plunged pot of coffee. French? Italian? Swiss? Vive la différence! +Samantha Joyce is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee!
About the Author: +Samantha Joyce is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee. Samantha is also one of our newest Over Coffee members and you can visit her profile and drop her a line here.