A lot of confusion & contradiction exists when it comes to defining 'Laguiole'.
Please find the most common questions & the answers below.
Q: Is Laguiole a "brand of cutlery"?
Contrary to popular belief, Laguiole is not a cutlery brand. There are no real or fake Laguiole knives, so to speak, and there is no such thing as a counterfeit version of this product.
Laguiole, in fact, designates a style of knife. There are Laguiole knives just as there are hunting knives, camping knives, butterfly knives, or Swiss knives ...
The brand of a Laguiole knife depends on the manufacturer or the importer and the company brand associated with it. There are now over 80 brands designated under the name Laguiole filed in Class 8 (cutlery) with the INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle, the French National Industrial Property Institute). These brands are owned by different companies which have no connection with each other.
Only the word or logo that appears before or after the word Laguiole is, therefore, considered a brand in the legal sense. We see a similar paradigm if, for example, we were to speak about a car (which is not a brand but which refers to a type of vehicle, as Laguiole refers to a type of knife). There are many brands of cars: Mercedes, BMW, Renault, Porsche, ...
Q: Is there a Laguiole charter or quality label?
The various companies that produce and import Laguiole knives never felt the need to work together to agree upon the specifications that would precisely define the Laguiole style.
In the market place, therefore, one finds these products at all levels of quality, all marketed under the name Laguiole. The distinguishing characteristics of a Laguiole knife, namely, the “fly”, the shape of the handle and blade, and the quality of steel can, therefore, vary substantially from one manufacturer to another:
- There is no single “fly” model (also called “bee” or “hornet” by some), rather, there are as many models as there are manufacturers.
- Size and shape of the handle may vary greatly from one model to another, there are knives of different lengths and breadths (or “plumpness), with or without a corkscrew, in materials as diverse as they are varied. Some models are foldable, others not.
- The quality of steel used for the blades also differs depending on the manufacturer and according to the model, whether it be top of the range, blue ribbon, or a table or pocket model.
It is the associated mark and the trained eye of the consumer which serve as the guide in choosing a beautiful Laguiole knife.
Q: Is the name “Laguiole” an indication of provenance?
As many of us know, Laguiole is also the name of a regional cheese and a small French village situated in the Aveyron. It is commonly accepted that the Laguiole style of knife most likely originates from this region of France (hence the name).
These days, in the marketplace, there are a large number of Laguiole knives coming from foreign production.
In this respect, the Laguiole name does not constitute an indication of provenance.
Q: Is there any case law to support these affirmations?
Subject to disputation for many years, notably under the growing momentum of imports during the '80s, the Court of Appeal of Riom ruled definitively on this subject in 1998 (Case 411/98 of 1 July 1998).
We retain from these texts the 2 following conclusions:
Page 6, 2nd paragraph:
It is clear from all evidence submitted by the defense that the name “Laguiole”, of which it has been determined is not a brand and which can only be considered to have fallen into the area of public domain in the absence of any particular process of manufacture, has, nonetheless, over time, become a generic term.
Page 6, 4th paragraph:
Therefore, the name “Laguiole” can not only be considered to constitute an indication of provenance.
A second judgment by the Paris Court of Appeal confirmed this assessment in 1999:
The name Laguiole applied to a certain type of knife is no longer used to designate a location but rather a valued commodity that the public has commonly adopted (...)
Laguiole products from FRENCHDIFFUSION.com are sold in complete accordance with the law.
The Laguiole name, associated with a piece of cutlery, does not designate a company or a brand or label, but a simple style of knife. Nobody in France (or worldwide) may have any claim to or monopoly on this name in cutlery.