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Circuit Judges Blast Foreign Law Expert Witnesses

Bodum USA v. La Cafeti?re seemed to be a routine foreign contract dispute between two manufacturers of French-press coffee makers. The conflict began in 1991, when Bodum Holding acquired the company that had made the Chambord press for almost a half century. Louis-James de Viel Castel, the principal investor and manager of the acquired company, had another business--the British firm Household Articles--which sold a French press called La Cafeti?re. The press closely resembled the Chambord design, and Household wanted to continue selling La Cafeti?re after the merger.

After several rounds of contract revisions, the parties signed an acquisition agreement stipulating that Household would never sell a French-press coffee maker in France, never use the trade name Chambord, or, for four years, distribute through the importers, distributors or agents that it used before the merger. Otherwise, Household could sell the press however it wanted.

Even though many Americans only speak English, he said judges are already legal experts by nature of their jobs. He said they do not need paid witnesses to "spoon feed" information that is already available in well-explained English treatises and articles.

"[O]ur linguistic provincialism does not excuse intellectual provincialism," Posner wrote.

Assistant Editor

Christopher Danzig

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