MONTREAL—The Francophone owner of an Italian coffee shop is fighting the Office quebecois de la langue francaise in court over how many Fs are acceptable in the word café.

His offence is the same as that of a coffee shop in Quebec City: spelling “caffe” with two letter Fs instead of using the French spelling.

Jean-Francois Leduc of Caffe in Gamba said he was first confronted by the OQLF in 2010 after someone complained about the Italian spelling on his storefront.

Leduc said the OQLF gave him permission to keep the name as long as he added a French descriptive, such as "le café" to the front of his shop's name.

“Everyone understands what caffe is. It's also the name of my business and a registered trademark so I want to keep it this way,” said Leduc.

He refused, saying he just didn't have the space to make that addition on his original sign because it would be so small as to be illegible, but he was willing to write "La maison de l'espresso" somewhere else in front of his store for Francophones who could not understand the word “caffe.”

That wasn't enough and Leduc said the refusal and the two fines of $1,885 each he is facing are making him feel bullied.

"It's something intimidating because it's the 'Penal criminel et tribunal'," said the francophone store owner. "There are two fines attached to this legal battle and these fines are worth almost $4,000."

Leduc also wonders why the registered trademark for his store's name doesn't permit him to keep the name unaltered, when companies with national or international reach can do so without hesitation.

“It goes beyond politics,” said the Leduc, who said the problem breached the two solitudes. “A bunch of people came up to me and said, ‘Oh, it's because of the Parti Quebecois!’ But it actually happened when the Liberals were in power back in 2010.”

Ironically, the government-owned SAQ next door to Leduc’s café is using the word “Festivino” to promote the sale of Italian wines.

In recent weeks the strict application of Bill 101 to restaurants and menus, as required by the law, has created uproar among many Quebecers.

The minister for language in Quebec blamed an “overzealous” inspector for targeting the word “pasta,” among others, on the menu at St-Laurent Blvd. mainstay Buonanotte.

Diane DeCourcy ordered the OQLF to create a foreign character exemption in order to allow Buonanotte's menu to remain unchanged.

However another Italian restaurant, Caffe Conti in Quebec City, has also run afoul of language laws and decided to remove the word “caffe” from its signs.

That restaurant is also currently in the process of selling its stemware labeled with its original name.

Meanwhile in Montreal West, Antoinette Mercurio is among many business owners who recently got an unexpected visit from a man claiming to be affiliated with the OQLF.

He was handing out forms, asking people to sign up for help to comply with language laws. The registration fee: $20. Mercurio asked for a card. He didn't have one. She was suspicious.

“I called l'Office, because I wanted to make sure. They said no, they don't work with anybody else. So here's this guy and everybody on the street was questioned by him,” said Mercurio of Voyages Caleche.

The president of Mouvement Quebec Francais is concerned these stories are triggering a backlash against the French language.

“In Quebec, French is the common language, the official language and people need accept that we have the right ensure its survival,” said Mario Beaulieu, the group’s president.

As for Leduc, he just wants to sell espresso. He says the word “Caffe” doesn’t present a threat to French.