French Village, Knife Maker in Legal Battle Over Name

Staff Writer
French Village, Knife Maker in Legal Battle Over Name

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Known the world over, the original makers of Lagouile knives are not happy with the result of a lawsuit against the foreign company who has been using their name.

Laguiole (pronounced lye-OLE), a town in south-central France, is well-known as the home of a popular knife style — with a signature curved blade and a bee or fly on its catch (or ripasso) where the blade meets the handle — that dates back to the migration of shepherds and cattle herders here from Spain in the early 1800s. However, the town has lost out on the legal right to use its name on anything else besides the knives that multiple producers in the town create and sell, to Paris-based businessman Gilbert Szajner, who claims that he had trademarked the use of the name, as well as the knife’s signature bee or fly, in 1993 to sell similar knives that are manufactured in China.

The town had to pay 100,000 (about $140,000) to Szajner and surrender the trade usage rights of their name. The producers in Laguiole can still stamp their name on the original knife product, but cannot use it for any other traded good, and Szajner can now sell the rights to the name to any other entity. In protest, the municipal government took down their town sign and are now appealing to France’s president François Hollande for help.

“We would like to come to the capital in order to appeal to you, Mr. President, and relinquish to you the town sign that we have removed,” Laguiole mayor Vincent Alazard wrote. "If tomorrow, one of our businesses wants to make Laguiole forks and put the name Laguiole on them, we will be accused of counterfeiting products made in Asia.” 

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi

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