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Laguiole issues SOS over name

Mayor of Aveyron village appeals for help to the "36,000 communes of France" in dispute with knife manufacturer

17 April 2014

THE MAYOR of Laguiole has called on the support of “the 36,000 communes of France” as it fights for the right to use its own name.

Flanked by three-star chef Michel Bras, whose famous restaurant is nearby, farmers, traders, cheese- and knife makers and elected officials, mayor Vincent Alazard said: “We call for solidarity with the 36,000 communes of France. Communities help each other when there are natural disasters. We are victims of a super-natural disaster.

"We are in a state of rebellion, even if we respect the institutions," he said, adding that officials of the Aveyron village would take time for reflection before deciding whether to continue their legal battle, after it was ordered to pay costs more than €100,000.

The mayor said the sum was “almost 10% of our budget”.

Jean-Louis Grimal, president of the county association of mayors of Aveyron, said: “usurping the name of a community … is unacceptable and the Association of Mayors of France will do everything to help Laguiole.”

The mayor’s plea, first to President François Hollande and now to the people of France comes after the Court of Appeal ruled that the village's name cannot be attached to any product other than those under the Laguiole brand, several of which are made in China.

Gilbert Szajner, the businessman who owns the trademark to the name Laguiole, said in a statement that the court “does not prohibit the town of Laguiole denominate well and use his name as part of its activity public services”.

In a statement on Wednesday, economy minister Arnaud Montebourg and secretary of state Valerie Fourneyron said they recognised “the legitimate anger” of the residents of Laguiole and outlined new legislation that has been adopted to help avoid any repeat of similar “unfortunate situations”.

Unfortunately, for the people of Laguiole, the law - which allows holders of so-called “Geographical Indicators” to oppose the registration of trademarks that could affect them - is not retroactive, so cannot be applied to their case.

Photo: Bertrand Pfaff

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