Laguiole knife, at the origin of the French GI system for craft and industrial products, is now registered as a GI

The French Patent and Trade Mark Office (INPI) recently registered “Couteau Laguiole” as a geographical indication (GI) for a knife produced in the French communes of Laguiole and Thiers. It is a French-only GI, as no EU-wide GI protection is currently foreseen for craft and industrial products (also known as “non-agri” GIs). This registration had a tumultuous road on route to registration: historical disputes, conflicts with trade marks, a legal reform and two separate GI applications.

Laguiole knife, as shown in the GI application

Cutlery production in Laguiole, a French commune in the Occitanie region, started in early 19th century. Gradually building its reputation for high quality knifes, Laguiole was unable to keep up with demand with the result that in the 1850s it started subcontracting part of its production to the cutlers of Thiers (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region). Thiers was already well-known for the quality of its cutlery. Situated some 200 kms one from the other (see the map in the bottom of this post), the two communes have closely cooperated in the production of Laguiole knifes since at least 1868.

In 1918, cutlery production in Laguiole stopped, after most of its male population died in WW1. Yet, Thiers continued producing Laguiole knifes throughout the 20th century, preserving the traditional know-how. It was not until 1985 that cutlery production returned to Laguiole. The application for registration of “Couteau Laguiole” asserts that the Laguiole cutlery industry was revived by bringing cutlers from Thiers.

While Laguiole and Thiers were reviving their heritage, Gilbert Szajner, a Paris-based businessmen, registered in France several Laguiole-related trade marks, including a word mark “Laguiole” for a variety of goods and services. While the brand relied on long-standing traditions of cutlery production in Laguiole, at least part of the goods were produced in China or Pakistan.

The commune of Laguiole brought the matter to court, claiming that these trade marks were deceptive. The case has known its ups and downs for both sides, reaching twice the French Cassation Court. In 2019, the Paris Appeal Court annulled the trade marks as being registered in bad faith, based on the commune’s earlier rights (case No 17/04510). In 2022, the French Cassation Court confirmed this decision, stating that registration had been done in bad faith, but that the trade marks were not deceptive (case No 19-17.778).

In parallel, Szajner also registered several EU trade marks. They cover a long list of goods and services, albeit excluding knives, forks and scissors. This too resulted in prolonged litigation, which reached the Court of Justice over the matter of the application of national laws in proceedings before the EUIPO (covered by The IPKat here). Here, Szajner achieved a victory, maintaining the validity of his “Laguiole” trade mark for various goods, such as bottle-openers and manicure sets.

As well, in 2014, in light of the Laguiole trade mark saga and to better protect its local heritage, the French legislator created national GI protection system for craft and industrial products. Prior to 2014, non-agricultural GIs in France could only be “registered” through a court decision (such as Puy Lace). A formal registration procedure (called “homologation”) was introduced by the Law On Consumer Protection No 2014-344.

Unlike GI applications for wine and agricultural products (examined in France by a specifically created institution, the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité, INAO), GI applications for craft and industrial products are considered by INPI. Registration procedure includes an examination by INPI (including by a patent engineer, who examines the GI specifications), then followed by a public consultation with consumers and competitors, and eventual registration, after any necessary amendments are made. The first application under this procedure concerned “Marseille soap” (which is still pending in its own contentious fashion).

During 2020-2021, the INPI received two parallel applications for GI registration: “Couteau de Laguiole” and “Couteau Laguiole”.

Couteau de Laguiole (literally, knife from Laguoile) claimed that GI-protected knifes must only come from the region of Laguiole. It was vehemently opposed by producers from Thiers, based on historical connections as described above. This application was finally rejected by the INPI at the end of 2021.

Couteau Laguiole, in turn, claimed GI protection with respect to both the Laguiole and Thiers regions (see the map to the left). Some Laguiole-based producers opposed this, arguing that the link between the cutlers of Laguiole and Thiers was limited to a simple paid subcontracting work, which was unknown to the general public. However, after successfully passing the opposition stage, “Couteau Laguiole” was approved by the INPI. As such, it became the 14th non-agri GI, registered in France. Though its protection is “'franco-française”, with no legal effect outside of France.

In the meantime, the French system is serving as as a possible model for the EU. In spring 2022, the European Commission published its Proposal for a Regulation on GI protection for craft and industrial products. Under this Proposal, non-agri GIs will be protected under the protected geographical indication -PGI- scheme (that is, through their reputation, rather than their connection to terroir – see an earlier post by The IPKat here). The scope of protection will be the same as for agricultural GIs (art. 35).

Under this proposed scheme, national authorities, such as national IP offices or ministries, will be responsible for the national stage of EU non-agri GI registration, including the preliminary national examination of application and the national opposition stage. After that, applications will be transferred to the EUIPO. The EUIPO will cover the EU stage of the registration, including examination, EU-wide oppositions and appeals (arts. 11-30).

Similar to what happened with national systems of GI protection for wines and agricultural products after the introduction of EU-wide schemes, national non-agri GIs will cease to exist within one year after the date of entry into force of the Regulation (art. 67(1)). EU Member States will be able to convert their national GIs (such as the Laguiole knife) within six months after the entry into force of the Regulation.
Laguiole knife, at the origin of the French GI system for craft and industrial products, is now registered as a GI Laguiole knife, at the origin of the French GI system for craft and industrial products, is now registered as a GI Reviewed by Anastasiia Kyrylenko on Sunday, October 16, 2022 Rating: 5


  1. Why was the TM Laguiole not considered as a notorious TM so that other domains for the same TM should not have been accepted.
    There is no doubt that bad faith was also present when Szajner registered the TM at the EUIPO for anything but cutlery and scissors. A sheath for a Laguiole knife has as EU TM but was refused in France. Logic seems lacking somewhere. in my opinion at the CJEU.

    1. Dear anonymous, thank you for your comment! Proceedings concerning the EUTM "Languiole", which reached the CJEU in case C-598/14 P, were based on the risk of confusion with prior rights (business name "Forge de Laguiole"), not on bad faith. Forge de Laguiole did file a request for invalidity against Mr. Szajner's EUTM "Laguiole" in 2019, this time based on bad faith. However, Forge de Laguiole did not attach any evidence to this request, so it was rejected. You can check it under "Decisions" here:


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