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Zelaza

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  1. This is an old post but it's about something that I'm interested in and which has been in the (French) news a bit lately, so I thought I'd light it up again. As has been alluded to in this thread, Laguiole is a small village in the Department of Aveyron, in an area known as the Aubrac region. Laguiole was the birthplace of the legendary Laguiole folding knife that was originally designed for herdsmen and later adapted for more domestic applications. In 1993 a French businessman named Gilbert Szajner noticed that the word "Laguiole" had never been trademarked, and he took advantage of that situation by trademarking the word "Laguiole" in a number of countries, licensing it to manufacturers of all kinds of products all over the world, and vigorously defending his exclusive rights to it in courts all over the world. As a result, the market has become full of products, including knives and other kinds of cutlery, that are marked "Laguiole" but are not manufactured in or near Laguiole and are not made in accordance with the artisanal traditions of the region. These so-called "Laguiole" knives range from decent quality down to absolute junk. In 2005 the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) granted Szajner an EU-wide trademark for the word "Laguiole" in conjunction with a large number of product types, including knives and cutlery. Subsequently, Forge de Laguiole, one of the few cutlers still located within the boundaries of Laguiole, contested that decision and in 2011 the EUIPO annulled (cancelled) Szajner's EU trademark for all products except, believe it or not, telecommunications services. Szajner appealed that cancellation to the EU General Court, and in 2014 that court restored Szajner's trademark for all products except knives and cutlery. The EUIPO and Forge de Laguiole appealed that partial restoration in the European Court of Justice (the EU high court) and the EU high court rejected EUIPO's appeal and confirmed the decision of the EU General Court. So, at this point Szajner still holds an EU trademark on the word "Laguiole" for products other than knives and cutlery - it remains to be seen where the legal battles over the word "Laguiole" will go in the future, in the EU or in other jurisdictions... The good news is you can still get a "real" Laguiole knife, where "real" means a beautiful, heirloom-quality knife, made by hand, in the vicinity of Laguiole, with extremely high standards of quality for materials and workmanship. Two of the best manufacturers of "real" Laguiole cutlery are Forge de Laguiole and Laguiole en Aubrac. In the US you can buy a wide variety of Forge de Laguiole knives (folding knives as well as kitchen and table cutlery) from their US distributor. Laguiole en Aubrac products are a little bit harder to find, but you can find a good selection of Laguiole steak knives, cheese knives, and corkscrews at Occitan Imports.
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