War rages over the ownership of the French cutlery brand Laguiole
The CJUE agrees with the French court’s decision
Will TB Groupe’s line of Laguiole products have to change their name in the near future? Today, asking this question seems legitimate in light of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJUE) recent verdict. Over the past few years a battle has been raging over who really owns the French cutlery brand Laguiole?
March 5, 2017, the CJUE ruled that the name Laguiole could not be used as a brand name. This decision overruled the one made in 1993 concerning the now famous entrepreneur Gilbert Szajner from Val-de-Marne, France. His company sold a wide variety of cutlery items as well as other products such as clothing, furniture and toys under the name Laguiole.
French cutlers creating Laguiole knives must pay royalties!
Before Szanjer lost the right to use the name Laguiole as a brand name, companies that wished to sell items under the name Laguiole, including cutlers, were required to pay royalties. This decision displeased many stakeholders, including the historic company, Forge de Laguiole, which is based in the town of Laguiole and who claims original ownership over the Laguiole brand name.
Over the past two decades, the copyright changed hands several times. Previous chapters in this long and detailed story are explained in one of our previous articles. Recently, the CJUE agreed with the French Court of Cassation’s 2016 decision, removing Sazjner’s copyright, which allowed him to use Laguiole as a brand name.
A polemic: Laguiole and “Made in France” cutlery
The only thing that is sure about the debate over the brand name Laguiole is that it is far from being over. The French term Laguiole can now be found in the dictionary and is defined as the world-renowned French knife that has a specific design.
The Court of cassation’s latest decision is ambiguous, as it does not give 100% support to the town of Laguiole and its companies.
One of the documents stipulates that there is still a risk that “the average consumer may be mislead” and believe that products marked with the name Laguiole actually “come from (and were manufactured in) the town.” However this situation is even more complex than it seems – a large majority of the Laguiole knives are actually manufactured in the historic cradle of cutlery, the town of Thiers located in the Auvergne region.
New developments in the near future
Since the European courts have authorized Forge de Laguiole to mark its products with the name “Laguiole,” nothing is stopping other cutlery companies from doing the same.
The case has been referred to the Court of Cassation’s Court of Appeals. The court date has not yet been fixed. Will this last court date bring peace to this situation?
Gilbert Szajner and Forge de Laguiole: who benefits from the CJUE’s decision?
The company Forge de Laguiole is satisfied
Thierry Moysset, the president of Forge de Laguiole, confirms that the company’s directors are satisfied with the latest court decisions: “Even though we produce a locally made product, I would have been declared a counterfeiter and my products placed on the same level as ones manufactured in China!”
The latest decision made by the European court is in line with the first French judgement given in 1999, which gave Forge de Laguiole the right to market all of its knives with the name “Laguiole.” Since then, the jurisprudence has ruled that Laguiole is not only a French cutlery brand, but also a generic term referring to the particular shape of one of France’s most famous pocket knives.
The European hearing that took place this March 2017 confirmed the European Union’s 2014 decision, which granted Forge de Laguiole the right to use the name “Laguiole” on its cutlery and silverware, including its knives, forks, spoons, corkscrews and many other accessories.
Thierry Moysset concluded: “Finally justice! We have given what belongs to La Forge back to it! Now individuals recognize our company’s anteriority.” Moysset is also president of the Laguiole cutlers union that unites a total of eight companies.
Szajner also finds justice!
The latest evolutions in the court case have not made a big impact of Szajner’s company, as he can also continue using the name Laguiole on products as long as they are not the same type of products produced by Forge de Laguiole. In other words, he can use the name “Laguiole” on barbeques, sunglasses, gardening tools and slippers.
Szajner’s lawyer, François Deschamps, declared that he was also “satisfied” with the European court’s latest decision and added that the court “allowed the use of the name for a whole series of products.”
Gilbert Szajner added with a provocative tone: “This decision will not prevent anyone in China, Switzerland or elsewhere from making Laguiole knives. I do not feel concerned at all.”