Village wins back right to use name on famous knives

Victory comes after 19 year battle to fight one firm’s claim to famous Laguiole trademark

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The European Union Court of Justice has ruled businesses in the Aveyron town of Laguiole can use the name Laguiole on produce made there with no further risk forgery accusations, ending a 19-year-long battle.

In a bizarre and historic case, which at one point saw the residents take down sign posts in the region as protest - the judge ruled the people had the right to claim the long-standing tradition and skills of knife-making associated with their region.

Since the 19th century Laguiole and the surrounding area, as well as in Thiers to the north-east, have had a well-known tradition of producing top quality knives with a distinctive slim curved blade and a bee or fly motif on the handle, all associated with the Laguiole name. That was until Paris-based businessman Gilbert Szajner was allowed to register the Laguiole name as a trademark in 1993.

His company then started marketing a range of products - many of which were made in China - including table linen, corkscrews, lighters and even barbecues using both the name and logo. This meant the village was banned from using the name, or the logo, to promote any other product.

This prompted the Mayor of Laguiole, Vincent Alazard, during the legal battle to tell 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.”

The decision by the European court to return the name to the people of Laguiole will have repercussion throughout France, as many entrepreneurs have exploited the legal loop hole which allows them to use very famous names as trademarks.

‘It’s great news for ‘made in France’ specialities’, said French journalist Christian Menanteau.