Plaintiff’s French press is on the left

Pictured above, on the left, is plaintiff Bodum’s CHAMBORD French press coffeemaker, and on the right is that of defendant A Top. A French press, also known as a coffee plunger, stamp pot, or coffee press, depending on your locale. uses a mesh plunger to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee. I don’t mind French press, but I personally prefer either the CHEMEX drip method, or my favorite – the AeroPress.

This was a Seventh Circuit appeal of Bodum’s victory at trial in the Northern District of Illinois.

Plaintiffs in product configuration trade dress cases must win the trade dress trifecta:

  • they have achieved secondary meaning in the trade dress;
  • the trade dress is not functional; and
  • defendant’s configuration is not confusingly similar to the protectable elements in plaintiff’s trade dress.

Bodum defined its trade dress as:

  • the metal band surrounding the carafe that forms support feet and the handle attachment;
  • the domed lid;
  • the rounded knob atop the plunger
  • the C-shaped handle.

Bodum did not claim protection in the cylindrical carafe or the plunger, acknowledging that those elements are functional for a French press.

Defendant A Top did not contend that it did not copy those arguments – it argued that Bodum failed to establish that the claimed features are not essential to its use and that these features do not affect the coffeemaker’s cost or quality. In other words, Bodum had not met its burden that these elements were not functional (Bodum was asserting common law rights and therefore had the burden of establishing protectability).

A passage of interest:

A Top’s expert . . . didn’t see particularly great advantage in the design of the handle, but [he] saw an advantage in having a handle.” Whether it is more advantageous for a French press to have a handle, however, is not a pertinent inquiry; the question is whether there is an advantage to having this designed handle, to which [the expert] agreed there is not.

The Court came to similar conclusions about the feet, lid, and lid knob.

Affirmed. Bodum USA v A Top New Casting Inc., No. 18-3020 (7th Circuit June 12, 2019)

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