Plea to President over village name

Mayor of Aveyron town of Laguiole makes appeal after a court rules in favour of a company that trades under its name

THE MAYOR of Laguiole has appealed directly to French President François Hollande after a court ruled that the village’s name was the property of a knife manufacturer.

Vincent Alazard’s plea 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.

It is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle which has reportedly so far cost residents €100,000.

Despite the mounting legal costs the Aveyron village is considering a further legal appeal. Its 1,300 inhabitants are also said to be planning a march on the Élysée Palace.

After losing their first case in 2012, residents took down their town’s name signs in a symbolic gesture saying that a Paris court “stole” it from them by allowing products that were made in China to use the “Laguiole” name.

The same year, hopes were raised when then-trade minister Sylvia Pinel promised to fight to extend Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) rights to craft products such as knives.

“Laguiole” knives – high-quality hunting (and other) knives with a slim curved blade and a bee or fly motif on the handle – are traditionally made in Laguiole and the surrounding area, as well as in Thiers to the north-east. The name has been attached to the knives since the 19th century.

But Paris-based businessman Gilbert Szajner registered the name as a trademark in 1993, along with its associated bee logo, for his company that sells similar knives which are made in a factory in China.

His company, then started marketing a range of products including table linen, corkscrews, lighters and even barbecues using the name and logo.

The terms of the court ruling ban the village from using their name, or the logo to promote any other product.

Mr Alazard told Europe 1 radio: “If tomorrow one of our businesses wants to make forks and puts the name Laguiole on them, we will be accused of counterfeiting products made in Asia.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons