Thursday, 4 July 2019

Afro Leo

Laguiole ought to sharpen up - by Natacha Rey


Natacha Rey is no stranger to this portal and has been contributing to it in various forms since 2009. Now legal advisor to University of the Witwatersrand with significant experience in IP gained inhouse and in private practice, Natacha has decided to put the knife in, so to speak, on the state of protection of an industrious village in the heart of France, in this interesting guest post. You can follow and connect with Natasha through her Linkedin profile here.
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I'm not sure if you have ever come across "LAGUIOLE" steak knives. They're really great, French knives that are razor sharp and remain sharp for years, without needing to sharpen them. I was lucky enough to receive a set about 6 years ago from my parents and they are still just as sharp as the day I received them. We recently received a set of 6 Laguiole knives and forks for our engagement and I was looking to get another matching set. In South Africa, I found a full "Laguiole" dinner cutlery set of 24 for approximately R2000. I took my search further abroad and found a similar "Laguiole" 24 piece set on Amazon for GBP21 (approximately R400). This raised some red flags in my IP-attorney brain. These surely must be counterfeit? 
So I started to look for the "original" LAGUIOLE brand and discovered that in fact, Laguiole is not a brand at all, but rather a small French village known for its traditional handcrafted knives. Knives made in the Laguiole region are handcrafted by one person, from start to finish. They are generally heavier than an ordinary knife and have a bee / fly welded to the metal part of the knife. Usually, the handle on a genuine Laguiole knife is made from natural materials such as wood or horn. 
However, the name LAGUIOLE and the bee device have not been protected as trade marks by any one proprietor, nor have they been protected as geographical indicators. As a result, the market has become flooded with so-called "Laguiole" knives that do not originate from the Laguiole region and have not been manufactured in the traditional way. Customers who would ordinarily use the bee device as an indicator of origin would be misled into believing ordinary knives are Laguiole knives because the bee has also not been protected in any form and is commonly used by all knife manufacturers in Laguiole and elsewhere.
Geographical indicators like Champagne, Port and Rooibos come to mind and the relevant authorities in Laguiole may want to invest in protecting its traditional craft and trade by means of acquiring geographical indicator protection (or perhaps a certification trade mark). In the meantime,manufacturers of these imitation products, which are expectantly of inferior quality, are taking full advantage of the lack of protection and the market is becoming cluttered with and diluted by products not originating from the Laguiole region. 
In the meantime, this is how you can spot a fake Laguiole knife for yourself: see links here, here and here.

Afro Leo

Afro Leo

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