The Polish Constitutional Tribunal in its judgment of 23 June 2015 case file SK 32/14 ruled on the unconstitutionality of Article 79(1)(3)(b) of the ARNR that provided treble licence fee for culpable infringement. The Tribunal held that this provision violated the right of ownership and the principle of equality under the law, by disproportionately burdening copyright infringer in relation to infringers of other rights.
On 5 May 2010, PLAY Brand Management Limited applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for a single color trade mark Z-369967 defined in PANTONE scale as 2627C, for goods and services in Classes 9, 35 and 38.
The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection and decided that the applied sign was not inherently distinctive in relation to communications services for mobile phones, and the applicant has not demonstrated sufficiently that the mark has acquired distinctivenes through use. PLAY submitted request for re-examination of the matter. The PPO ruled that the sign in question may serve as a trade mark, since it was applied graphically and identified using the code recognized at international level, i.e. Pantone number. Such a figurative representation of a single color is in line with the requirements set for a designation that in order to fulfill its function as a trade mark must be clear, precise, complete in itself, easily accessible, understandable, fixed and objective. However, while analyzing the distinctiveness of the applied trade mark in concreto, the PPO stressed that, according to settled case-law, the essential function of a trade mark is to guarantee to the consumer or end user the identity of the origin of the designated goods or designated services, by allwowing him to distinguish the goods or services from the goods or services of different origin. The goal of distinctiveness of a trade mark is to provide a given sign with such features that in the minds of market players they will clearly indicate that the product (or service) marked in this way is derived from the specific entity. Therefore, the attention sould be paid to the customary use of the trade mark, as a designation of origin in the specific sectors, as well as the perception of relevant consumers. In the opinion of the PPO when it comes to color per se, the existence of distinctiveness (without any prior use) is possible only in exceptional circumstances, in particular, when the number of goods or services for which the trade mark was applied for is very limited and the relevant market is very specific. Those conditions must be interpreted in the light of the public interest, which is based on the fact that the availability of colors cannot be unduly limited for all other entrepreneurs. The PPO noted that the modern technology allows to generate an almost infinite number of shades of each color, but in assessing whether they differ from each other, one should take into the perception of a relevant group, and therefore the average consumer. The number of colors that people are able to actually identify, is small, therefore the number of colors available as potential trade marks that would allow for distinguishing the goods had to be regarded as very limited. Moreover, the market for mobile services is not narrow and specific. Such market does not only cover telecom operators, but it is a collection of current and potential buyers of a product or service, respectively, its size depends on the number of buyers that express interest in all products, with an adequate income and availability of products for purchase. Market size is a characteristic that describes the quantitative state of the market at a given time in number of consumers (users) of a given type of goods or services. The PPO stated that the scale of Pantone, as the RAL or CMYK scales, is a very precise tool used to describe the color, but little practical from the standpoint of conditions of a normal trade and market turnover. The description of the Pantone color will not be a sufficient indication for the average consumer. The PPO also decided that less than four years (the company started its operation in 2007, and market survey evidence was conducted in 2011) could not be considered as a sufficient period to establish that the sign was in long-term use. In the context of proving that the sign has acquired secondary meaning, such time was certainly too short. PLAY Brand Management filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 October 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1378/13 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the PPO properly examined all the evidence material and properly justified its decision. The VAC as the PPO relied on the opinion of legal commentators and the so-called “color depletion/exhaustion” theory. According to this concept, the number of colors that the human eye is able to recognize is small and limited. Therefore, none of the colors should be subject to anyone’s “ownership”, or generally speaking – the exclusive right, and these colors should be keept in the public domain, and therefore freely available for all entrepreneurs. The theory of shades’ confusion support the first one. The second provides that human perception is so limited that the average consumer is not able to distinguish between a large number of shades of different colors. Applying both theories to present commercial realities it should be borne in mind that the majority of trade marks exists in an environment where decisions on the purchase of goods or use of services are made hastily, without much hesitation on the part of consumers. It is difficult to expect that consumers will conduct an analysis and comparison of similar shades of color, and on this basis, they will be associating the product with its origin. The Court also agreed that the acquired distinctiveness has not been proven. Surveys were conducted in a group consisting of 1000 respondents who use mobile phones and thus who should have knowledge about the market and mobile network operators. However, these people differently responded to the two questions: i) with which mobile operators’ brands do they associate the color, and ii) with which brands do they associate the color.
For the first question, 59% of respondents indicated PLAY as the operator, and only 11% respondents of the same group associated the color with PLAY while answering the second question, although the results should be concurrent, because the second question has not been addressed to random group of people, but a group of people who use mobile services. PLAY Brand Management filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 March 2015 II GSK 371/14 dismissed it.
Maciej Strzembosz is a Polish film producer, screenwriter, director and the President of the Polish Audiovisual Producers Chamber of Commerce. In his statements regarding Polish copyright law ammendments, free culture, market regulatory Mr. Strzembosz used very personal arguments against Igor Ostrowski, who is a renown lawyer and the co-founder of The Projekt: Polska Association and Centrum Cyfrowe, and Alek Tarkowski, a sociologist and the coordinator of the Polish branch of Creative Commons. Mr. Ostrowski and Tarkowski both being tired of arguments such as “Ostrowski’ Google’s agent” or “Tarkowski ideologist of thievery on the Net” decided to file a civil suit against Mr Strzembosz claiming infringement of personal interest.
The District Court in Warsaw logged this proceedings under case file XXIV C 607/13, however it has never reached a judgment since the parties decided not to continue their legal dispute before the Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 12 May 2014 case file I OPS 10/13 held that the current legal status of administrative court proceedings, as defined in Article 46 § 1 pt. 4 of the Polish Act on the Law on proceedings before administrative courts – PBAC – (in Polish: Prawo o postępowaniu przed sądami administracyjnymi) of 30 August 2002, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 153, item 1270, with subsequent amendments, does not allow for filing to a court a letter that is only bearing an electronic signature of a party. Such letters must bear handwritten signature. This includes a situation of filing documents through public administration body, by means of electronic communication.
Two Polish companies were involved in dispute regarding invalidation of a patent right. During the proceedings before the Polish Patent Office, one of the parties provided evidence that included internal documents and secret materials of the other party. The company filed a civil court action claiming unfair competition delict/tort.
The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2014 case file VI ACa 1478/13 ruled that patent invalidation proceedings, like any other litigation between entrepreneurs – even if it is connected with the economic activity of such entities, cannot be regarded as performing or conducting economic/business activities. This results in a lack of responsibility of the party of the proceedings before the Patent Office in respect of an act of unfair competition, even if in the course of that proceedings such party conducted activities that would normally be deemed as acts of unfair competition.
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark PHYTOLYZIN R-195394. The request was filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath, the owner of the earlier International trade mark registration LyCin IR-813677. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 November 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 790/12 dismissed a complaint filed against this decision, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 July 2014 case file II GSK 492/13 dismissed a cassation complaint filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath.
On November 2014, Mr Rath filed before the Supreme Administrative Court a request for the annulment of previous proceedings, and a motion to reopen the proceedings and to issue an award of costs in accordance with prescribed procedure and also submitted as a supplement to the cassation complaint the decision of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market of March 2013 on invalidity of the trade mark PHYTOLIZIN along with its certified translation into Polish. Mr Rath argued that the proceeding should be deemed by the Court as invalid because as the representative of the trademark owner appeared an attorney who submitted at the hearing a substitution of PoA as signed of July 2014. However, the power of attorney was invalid, because it was issued on behalf of another company, which was not a party to the proceedings.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 case file II GSK 2803/14 rejected the request and held that such motion is allowed if a party does not have the capacity and standing to bring proceedings or was not properly represented or if as a result of violations of the law was deprived of possible actions. However, the reopening cannot be requested if, before the judgment becomes final the inability to act ceased, the lack of proper representation was raised by way of objection, or a party has confirmed all procedural actions. These pleas and arguments for reopening, however, did not apply to Mr Rath. The argument for reopening of the proceedings was based on lack of adequate representation refered to the representation of the trade mark owner, not Mr Rath, and such a request may only be raised by a party that was not properly represented.
The Polish company FARMINA Sp. z o.o. filed before the Polish Patent Office a notice of opposition to the final decision on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark FARMONA Waliczek R-190461 registered for goods in Classes 3 and 5. Farmina argued that the trade mark FARMONA Waliczek is similar to its word trade mark FARMINA R-98950 also registered for goods in Classes 3 and 5. Laboratorium Kosmetyków Naturalnych FARMONA Sp. z o.o., the owner of a contested registration, argued that both signs are different, and as such there is no likelihood of confusion. FARMONA Sp. z o.o. also requested the PPO to decided on the lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark FARMINA R-98950 for goods in Class 3. In its letter of May 2010, FARMONA withdrew all previous arguments made by a former attorney in the case and has requested the PPO not to take into the account of all the evidence submitted. FARMONA argued that the goods are not similar, and from the range of over 300 prodcts, only 3 are distibuted in pharmacies, but only in those who have a cosmetic department. FARMONA argued that the parties operate in other industries. FARMONA Waliczek is engaged in the production of natural cosmetics offering a series of body care products, facial hair, as well as professional cosmetics for beauty salons and spas. FARMINA, however, claims to be a producer of drugs.
FARMINA argued that the PPO should dismiss the request to decide on the lapse of the trade mark. The Company claimed that not only it produces goods for pharmaceutical purposes, but also products for the purposes of care, which according to some people may belong to Class 5 of the Nice Classification. FARMINA stated that it uses its trade mark for the goods associated with personal care such as soaps, gels, creams, cosmetics and hair care products. The Comapny indicated that, in principle, all cosmetics contain ingredients that cause skin regeneration and it is debatable whether or not they should be considered as therapeutic agents or care products. The Opponent also argued that, due to the fact that it uses the trade mark FARMINA for goods similar or complementary to the perfumery products, such use should be considered as use of that mark for goods in Class 3 of the Nice Classification.
The Polish Patent Office noted that the right of protection for a trademark may not be invalidated on a sole ground that the trademark is similar to an earlier trademark, where the latter has not been genuinely used. This argument that the sign has not been genuinely used may only be raised when accompanied by a request for declaring the right of protection lapsed. The case should be examined jointly with the request for invalidation. The PPO decided that the trade mark FARMINA was not genuinely used for perfumery and ruled that the right of protection lapsed as of November 2002. In the opinion of the PPO, the compared trade marks had to be regarded as similar as the dominant elements in the signs are verbal elements FARMINA and FARMONA. These are words of the same length, consisting of the same number of syllables, and which contain the same beginning and ending. These words differ only in the fifth letter. The similarities are not excluded by the use of another verbal element, the word “Waliczek”, because this element is the name of the owner of the company, thus, this word refers in its content to the information that may suggest the average person, a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, the licensee, or the founder of the company, etc. The PPO invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark FARMONA Waliczek for the following products in Class 5: antisepsis, balms for medical purposes, biological preparations for medical purposes, enzymes for pharmaceutical purposes, enzymes for medical purposes, tea with herbs, medicinal ointments for pharmaceutical use, preparations with microelements for humans and animals, tinctures for medical purposes, dietetic beverages for medicinal purposes, oils for medicinal purposes, analgesics, laxatives, vitamin supplements, extracts for medicinal purposes, medicinal herbs, candies medicinal purposes, syrups for medical use, dietetic foods for medicinal purposes, gelatin for medical purposes. Both companies filed complaints against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 April 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 2177/12 joined the cases in one proceeding. The Court found no reason to revoke the decision of the Polish Paten Office, and dismissed both complaints. The VAC held, inter alia, that according to the established legal doctrine (opinions presented by Professor M. Kępiński in “Niebezpieczeństwo wprowadzenia w błąd odbiorców co do źródła pochodzenia towarów w prawie znaków towarowych”, published in Zeszyty Naukowe UJ 28/1982, pp. 17,18), in the short signs (words including up to 5 letters), just one letter difference should exclude the similarity. For the signs of the average length (up to 8 characters) at least 2 letters should be different to decide on dissimilarity. Again, both companies filed cassation complaints.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of II GSK 2037/13 dismissed both.
Transformation and economic changes in Poland after 1990 left a lot of problems in the case of trademarks that belong to the state-owned enterprises. The case described below is one of many examples.
PPHU HERBAPOL spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the word-figurative trade mark Herbapol Wrocław R-179901 that was registered for Wrocławskie Zakłady Zielarskie HERBAPOL Spółka Akcyjna for goods in Classes 3, 5, 30, 31 and 32. PPHU HERBAPOL argued that the questioned registration was applied for in bad faith and this sign is similar or identical to registration owned by PPHU HERBAPOL such as the word trade mark HERBAPOL R-00312 or the word-figurative trade mark HERBAPOL R-00356. PPHU HERBAPOL stressed that the goods are identical, are intended for the same consumers, on the same territory. The Company argued that according to the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law and regulations governing the use of Herbapol collective trade marks, the right to use this sign should be entitled only to PPHU HERBAPOL, and all affiliated entities, which also include HERBAPOL S.A., and the registration of an individual trade mark identical or similar to a collective trade mark Herbapol may only be made for the benefit of the PPHU HERBAPOL. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. obtained the right of protection “illegally”. It was emphasized that the right for the protection of the collective trade mark does not grant exclusivity to use the sign to one entity, because it is reserved for the organization with the right to its use by the organization and all of its affiliated entities. HERBAPOL S.A. is both a shareholder of PPHU HERBAPOL and the entity authorized to use the collective trade mark. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. was fully aware that its trade mark application was made without the knowledge and consent of PPHU HERBAPOL, which infringed PPHU HERBAPOL’s right of protection for the collective trade marks.
HERBAPOL S.A. requested the PPO to dismiss the case. The Company presented a genealogy of the transformation of the state owned company that was originally the sole owner of the Herbapol trade mark, and argued that PPHU HERBAPOL derives its priority to Herbapol sign “secondarily”. In this context, and bearing in mind that PPHU HERBAPOL does use the sign and not produce any goods under the name Herbapol, PPHU HERBAPOL is not the legal successor of the state enterprise. Consequently, HERBAPOL S.A. argued that PPHU HERBAPOL lacks of legal interest in seeking the invalidation of the disputed right of protection, and PPHU HERBAPOL did not object to the use of questioned sign in five years.
The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO decided inter alia that compared signs are similar in all three aspects, and the goods are identical or similar. HERBAPOL S.A. filed a complaint against this decision and argued that currently, between all companies included in PPHU HERBAPOL, there are no capital ties, on the contrary, they are in the classic competitive relationship, therefore as of the 1993/1994 they all began to use geographical designation like Wrocław, Poznań or Lublin alongside the sign Herbapol. Since then, HERBAPOL S.A. incurred large spending on advertising of its products thus the recipients of its products were able to distinguish the mark from other manufacturers that used the sign Herbapol. For these reasons, the HERBAPOL S.A. believed that its designation obtained independent and individual market position. HERBAPOL S.A. also argued that it has acquried the right to use Herbapol sign before PPHU HERBAPOL, because since 1959, it has used the word Herbapol in the company name. The state owned company Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Zielarskiego “Herbapol” in Warsaw applied for the right of protection for Herbapol trade mark in 1974, however in 1982 the company was dissolved and in its place another entity was created. Therefore, the right of protection has expired in 1984. PPHU HERBAPOL was founded in 1989 and in the same year the Company requested the Polish Patent Office to change the owner of all Herbapol trade marks in the Register kept by the PPO. From the foregoing, HERBAPOL S.A. brought the conclusion that the right to Herbapol sign should not derived by PPHU HERBAPOL from the “material priority”, but its right has kind of secondary nature.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 June 2014 case file VI SA/Wa 101/13 dimissed the complaint and ruled that because this case involved a collective trade mark, the Court had to indicate the nature of this type of sign. The main conclusion is that the right to collective trade mark belongs to the organization, but the organization’s affiliated entities are entitled to use the sign. The VAC cited recent judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 27 June 2007 case file II GSK 83/07 in which the SAC held that a collective trade mark serves many entities, although the right of protection is granted for a specific organization. The right to a trade and the right to use it separated. This institution should be distinguished from the joint right of protection, which is related to an individual trade mark, where such sign is intended for concurrent use by several undertakings who have jointly applied for the protection. In other words, the right of protection for a collective trademark does not grant exclusive rights to the use the sign by a single entity, but it’s owned by one organization, and it can be used by many entities associated in this organization. However, only the organization may be awarded the right, sell it, waive this right or request a change in the Register. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. infringed on registrations owned by PPHU HERBAPOL. With regard to the argument that PPHU HERBAPOL was not genuinely using the Herbapol collective trade mark, the Court noted that the organization may independently use the collective trade mark, however, the use of such sign only by entities affiliated also fulfills the conditions of trade mark use.
HERBAPOL S.A. filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 case file II GSK 2062/13 dismissed it.
Dansk Supermarked A/S, the owner of word trade marks NETTO and word-figurate trade mark NETTO R-114747 filed to the Polish Patenet Office a notice of opposition to the final decision on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark NETO R-227788 that was registered for the goods in Classes 7, 11, 19, 20, 21 and services in Classes 35 and 42. The opponent pointed out that the services in Class 35 are identical to these that NETTO trade marks were registered for, and are directed to similar consumers through similar channels. Furthermore, the services in Class 35 are complementary to the goods and services from other classes. Dansk Supermarked A/S also argued that the compared trade marks are very similar. The dominant element of the sign in question is the word “NETO”, which is crucial for the perception of the character, and the figurative element is of secondary importance. The word “NETO” is entirely contained in the opposing signs, therefore the compared trade marks are “substantially similar” and that the average consumer may mistakenly associate the signs, and there is a real risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods and services.
The owner, Polish company Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o., argued that the chain stores NETTO offer both food and industrial goods, and in this case, the opposing sign is used for the determination of the store itself or chain of stores. In contrast, the disputed mark is used to designate the goods.
The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO found that trade marks at issue are similar, and pointed out that all the goods in Classes 7, 11, 19, 20 and 21, are covered by the services included in class 35, and relate to the sale of these goods. Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o. filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 19 December 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1808/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the term “providing a service” or “service” itself have no material content in the sense that the sign may be placed only on the elements used to provide a particular service, while a trade mark can be assigned to the goods, due to their material nature, and the consumer may directly related to the goods to which a sign is assigned. The similarity of the goods/services happens when the goods (services) covered by the earlier mark and the goods (services) covered by the later mark have the same purpose and method of use. Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o. filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 September 2014 case file II GSK 1096/13 dismissed it.
The District Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 27 March 2014 case file I C 988/13 ruled that the provisions Article 15 of the Polish Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services by Electronic Means – PSEM – (in Polish: ustwa o świadczeniu usług droga elektroniczną), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 144, item. 1204 with subsequent amendments, exempts ISPs from the preventive moderation (approval) of comments posted by website and forum users.
The entity, which provides services specified in art. 12 – 14, shall not be obliged to monitor the data referred to in art. 12 – 14, which are transmitted, stored or made available by that entity.
The Court ruled that the lack of implementation of a control and content filtering system for profanity comments cannot prejudge the responsibility of the defendant, because preventive censorship would lead to infringement of the right to freedom of expression. The decision on the scope and priority of protected and conflicting rights, while accepting the obligation to adopt preventive control of information posted on a website and bonding the liability of the provider with the lack of such system, would constitute an excessive interference in the need of protection for different rights and interests, while simultaneously threatening freedom of expression.
Leszek Czarnecki and his wife Jolanta Pieńkowska sued Grupa o2, the owner and publisher of pudelek.pl website. Mr Czarnecki claimed that articles posted on this website infringed his personal interests by publishing information about social status and a new home, which was built on a grand scale.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 October 2011 case file IV C 1639/10 found the publisher guilty. The court held that the content of articles undermined the prestige of the spouses as they are people commonly known, reputable and rich. The Court ruled that the amount of compensation is up to 200.000 PLN, because, as the judge assessed the higher the prestige of imputed persons is, the higher should be the economic sanction.
Grupa o2 appealed. The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment case file VI ACa 73/12 ordered owners of both sites to issue an apology but reduced the amount awarded, and ruled that the company has to pay 20.000 PLN for social purpose. Both parties filed cassation complaints.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 12 September 2014 case file I CSK 542/13 repealed the contested judgment and returned the case for further reconsideration. The reasons were based on procedural grounds. It turned out that the Appeallate court has assessed the evidence, but it did not find its own conclusions. The Court also did not rule on the relationship between comments posted by Internet users and the provisions of Polish Act on Providing Services by Electronic Means that exclude the liability of the ISPs.
The Regional Court in Szczecin in its decision of 18 June 2014 case file VI Kp 84/14 ruled that the provisions of Article 305 of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, that provides that anyone marking goods with a counterfeit trade mark, registered trade mark for which one does not have the right to use, for the purpose of introducing them on the market or anyone who is making a turnover of goods bearing such trade mark, shall be liable to a fine, limitation of freedom or imprisonment for a period of up to two years, does not apply to services for which a trade mark was registered for. The Court noted that the definition of goods in the IPL also covers services, however, incriminated actions that are subject to the provisions of Article 305 of the IPL, were defined very narrowly and does not apply to trade mark use in advertising services. According to the Court, this view is shared by legal commentators who agreed that the protection provided in Article 305 of the IPL only covers the rights to mark the goods by the entitled person. Based on the principle of guarantee in the criminal law, the Court did not agreed for the analogy in order to extend the protection. The principle of the guarantee of law provides that those who do not violate the rules of law will not suffer negative consequences from the state. This function is of particular importance in the system of criminal law. By establishing sanctions for violation of, or for exposure of certain goods (criminalization) the legislator expresses its will to secure respect for such interests (the protective function of law), but also ensures (guarantee function of law) those who did not commit a criminal act, that they will not be held criminally responsible. The Court added that due to the nature of the service, it can not be introduced to the market, or be subject to market turnover.
During a political campaign in 2011, Dariusz Dolczewski posted a movie clip on his profile on Facebook in which he used images of young politicians from other party. This clip had a background music taken from a rap song “Suczki” (Bitches) that was recorded by Dominik Grabowski, known as Doniu. Grabowski sued.
The District Court for Warszawa-Praga in its judgment of 12 July 2013 case file I C 504/12 held that there was copyright infringement and ordered Dolczewski to pay 17.500 PLN compensation. More importantly, the Court ruled that posting a link on Facebook can be also deemed as infringement of copyrighted works. Both parties appealed.
The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 7 May 2014 case file I ACa 1663/13 repealed the contested judgment and held that the politician is not liable for copyright infringement, because since the defendant was not the author of this audiovisual work (the clip), therefore he could not be found guilty for posting a link to such work.
On 1 February 2007, SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS GmbH filed before the Polish Patent Office an opposition against the grant of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark lody SMYK NORDiS R-174465 that was registered for the Polish company NORDIS Chłodnie Polskie Sp. z o.o.
SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS, the owner of the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 registered inter alia for goods in Class 30 such as confectionery and sweets, argued that both signs are similar and may cause consumers’ confusion. The questioned registration was also an attempt to use the trade mark that was known on the market for more than twenty years, and which has won the recognition of customers thanks to significant financial and organizational expenditures. SMYK also alleged violation of the right to the company name.
NORDIS argued that the compared signs and the goods are not similar and there is no chance for confusion of potential buyers. The Polish company had applied for this sign in May 2003, because it should serve as a continuation of the word-figurative trade marks SMYK NORDIS NORDIS R-93343 and SMYK R-93586 that both lapsed on July 2003. NORDIS had the right to use all signs with the word elements SMYK and NORDIS, because both lapsed trade marks became the bar for registrations of new similar or identical signs for other entities, for two years after the lapse.
SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS replied that the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law do not afford the institution of “continuation” of trade marks, and the modified sign does not derive legal force from the earlier marks, and the owner cannot be entitled to rely on the law that no longer exists.
In 2008, the PPO dismissed the opposition. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS decided to file a complaint, and the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 May 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2315/08 overturned the decision, and ruled that the PPO has made an invalid interpretation of the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law on the similarity of signs and the goods with regard to the likelihood of confusion. The Court found that the semantic analysis lead to the logical conclusion that the concept of the term “ice cream” falls within the term of “sweets”, and hence there exist homogeneity of goods bearing compared signs due to the fact that ice cream are goods of “the same kind” as sweets. The homogeneity of goods follows from the semantic analysis of the concepts and the nature of the goods such as “ice cream” (narrower term) and “sweets” (broader term). The VAC also noted that the word element SMYK that is present in both signs, is also endowed with a similar graphics. The case went back to the PPO for further reconsideration.
On 3 August 2009, NORDIS Chłodnie Polskie Sp. z o.o. requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 in part for goods in Class 30, becuse SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS failed to put this sign in genuine use on the Polish territory. SMYK argued that its trade mark was present on the market among others on candies available in SMYK’s stores that are located in big malls.
On December 2009, the Polish Patent Office decided that the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 lapsed as of 18 December 2008 in part for goods in Class 30 such as confectionery except chocolate and chocolate products, and candy except chocolate and chocolate products. The PPO also dismissed the opposition against the grant of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark lody SMYK NORDiS R-174465. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 November 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 397/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that there was no violation of the company name, because at the time the disputed trade mark was applied, there was no conflict of interest between both parties, because the scope of activities of the two companies was different. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS has not shown that the registration will disrupt the function of the name of its company, NORDIS manufactures ice cream, while SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS is a producer of items for children, including toys and clothes and was never engaged in the production or sale of ice cream, moreover, the proceedings revealed that NORDIS does not use the sign in a possible colliding area. The Court agreed with the PPO that the trade mark was not applied contrary to law, public order or morality, because this provision, as it was aptly pointed by the PPO, refers to the content or form of how the applied sign is represented. Such contradiction lies in the violation of moral norms, ethics and customs adopted in business. It occurs primarily in the signs of vulgar or offensive content or form. The VAC noted that SMYK might have confused this regulation it with another institution i.e. bad faith. Legal provisions relating to signs applied in bad faith and signs which are contrary to public policy or morality that are included in the Polish Industrial Property Law are separate premises examined in the trade mark application or invalidation proceedings. The Court emphasized that the first condition is associated with the behavior of the applicant, and the second with the sign. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 May 2014 case file II GSK 582/13 dismissed it.
Polskie Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie (Polish Tatra Society) requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the the word-figurative trade mark POL.TOW.TATRZAŃSKIE 1873 R-101381 owned by Zarząd Główny Polskiego Towarzystwa Turystyczno-Krajoznawczego (Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society). PTT argued that in 1994, the PTTK unlawfully applied for the trade mark in question. It was plagiarized traditional organizational badge of the PTT and at the same time a membership badge and a badge of honor of that Society. This organizational badge with the inscription “Pol. Tow. Tatra of 1873” and the image of chamois, was established in 1922. After the II World War, the Society ceased to function, but it has been reactivated in 1981 in times of Polish People’s Republic. The badge was re-established by the decision of the Chairman of the Committee on Youth and Sports of October 1990 issued according to the provisions of the Polish Act of 21 December 1978 on badges and uniforms, as a PTT’s badge. PTTK argued that the decision was challenged before the administrative bodies and courts.
The PPO adjourned the proceedings until the Supreme Administrative Court in its final judgment of 2008 dismissed the cassation complaint against the decision of the Minister of Economy that refused to annull the decision of the Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture of October 1990. The PPO invalidated the right of protection. PTTK filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 5 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 515/12 annulled the contested decision, and ruled it unenforceable. The Court held that the legal basis for invalidation of the trade mark were the provisions of the Article 8 point 5 of the old Polish Act of 31 January 1985 on Trade Marks – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with subsequent amendments. Under this regulation, the registration of a sign which contains the name or crest of the Polish voivodeship, city or town, a reproduction of a Polish order, badge of honor and a military badge or sign, is unacceptable. Where justified, such a sign may be registered following approval by the competent authority state or the relevant organizational unit. In the filing date for registration of the invalidated trade mark, the Polish Act of 21 December 1978 on badges and uniforms was in force. Article 2 of that Act established three types of badges: a badge of honor, an organizational badge and an occasional badge. There was no doubt for the Court that the PTT has established an organizational badge. Clearly, it was not a badge of honor, because the PTT has not preserved the procedures required for its establishment. In turn, Article 8 point 5 of the TMA introduces inadmissible registration of a sign containing a badge of honor, not organizational badges. The VAC ruled that the PPO has violated the substantive law while deciding this case. PTT filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 May 2014 case file II GSK 1885/12 dismissed it.
On March 2008, the Polish Patent Office has granted to the Politechnika Wrocławska (Wrocław University of Technology) the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark e e-Informatica R-204692, for goods and services in Classes 9, 16, 18, 25, 35, 41 and 42.
Mr Piotr Chlebowski filed the opposition against the decision of the PPO, and argued that he works on the market (in business) under the business pseudonym Informatica, and has been using that term as a company name that was entered in the register of business activity in 2003. He also uses that name within “a website for his Internet domain”. The term Informatica is also used by Mr Chlebowski on business cards, in advertising, invoices and stamps. He argued that the questioned trade mark also violates his personal rights, because he has started the company under the name Informatica. In addition, he also enjoys the copyright to the term “Informatica”, and the use of that name by the Politechnika Wrocławska is also contrary to regulations provided in the Polish Act on Combating Unfair Competition.
Politechnika Wrocławska requested the PPO to dismiss the opposition and argued that the term Informatica cannot be deemed as personal or economic right or interest. There is no unfair competition because the name Informatica does not lead to consumers’ confusion as to the producer of goods or services.
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition. The PPO ruled the Mr Chlebowski is entitled to his full company name, not only to the term Informatica, and the provisions of the Polish Civil Code raised by the opponent relate to the violation of personal interests, and therefore not personal rights. However, the the mere fact that someone applied for a trade mark consisting of a part of the name of another company is not yet an obstacle to the registration. It is required that the registration and use of the trade mark constitutes a violation of the right to the company name. The average consumer will considers the designation as descriptive for the goods and services related to information technology. However, the figurative element – the first letter “e” – plays the dominant role in the perception of the whole trade mark. The registration of a domain name informatica.pl does not create exclusive property rights that are effective against all (erga omnes – absolute rights). The right to use an Internet domain name is the “relative right” based on the contractual obligation that is effective only with respect to the domain registrar. Mr Chlebowski filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 September 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 917/12 dismissed it, and Mr Chlebowski decided to file a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 April 2014 case file II GSK 244/13 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC held that a name of enterprise (business or company) belongs to the category of personal and property rights, which are subject to legal protection, and that these rights may be infringed by the use of the trade mark, because the two signs (the company’s name and a trademark) both identify the company. The SAC noted that the VAC relied on provision of the Polish Commercial Code that for many years were no longer in force, and incorrectly stated that Mr Chlebowski, as a natural person conducting his business activities, is not entitled to the company name. While the the Polish legislature has regulated in the Civil Code in Section III titled “Entrepreneurs and their designation” the right to the company name, which is also entitled to an entrepreneur who is a natural person. Thus, in this case occurred primarily a conflict of a right to the company name and the right of protection for a trade mark. The Supreme Administrative Court stated in its previous case-law, that the name of a company (the firm) is used to identify and differentiate entities in legal and economic transactions. It also serves a carrier of certain information about the characteristics and qualities of their activities. Unauthorized interference with the functions of the company name infringes the right to the name. This infringement is not prejudiced by registration of a trade mark that is identical or similar to the name of another company. Exclusive rights to the company name (firm) are not absolute. Their limits are territorial and objective and are based on actual activity of an entity that uses a given name. Only within these limits a collisions between identical or similar company name and trademark may occur. If different fields of business activities of a person (legal or natural) that is entitled to the company name and the proprietor of a trade mark, do not lead to consumers’ confusion with regard to the identity of companies, or such proprietor of the later trade mark is not using the reputation associated with earlier (identical or similar) company name, it is difficult to talk about the collision of these two rights, and consequently an infringement of an earlier right to the company name by the later mark (see: “Trade mark law, case II GSK 31/06” and “Trade mark law, case II GSK 406/08“). Applying these considerations to the present case, the SAC ruled that the VAC should reconsider and establish such facts as from which time Mr Chlebowski had acted in the course of trade under the company, using in addition to his surname a designation Informatica, what was the scope and of that activity and whether there is a risk of consumers’ confusion as to the identity of his company and the owner of a disputed trade mark. As it was already established in the case-law of Polish administrative courts, while finding an infringement of personal or property rights of third parties by a trade mark registration, it does not matter whether there are specific facts of confusion in trade, i.e. consumers’ confusion as to the identity of the company and the sign. It is enough to determine the potential possibility (likelihood) of such confusion, that in case of companies carrying identical or convergent activities, seems inevitable (see the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 30 March 2006 case file II GSK 3/06, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 197239). While considering this case, the VAC should also pay attention to the unified position of both the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court expressed in the case law that in case of a collision between a company name and an applied and/or registered trade mark, the priority is given to the earlier right.
On September 2007, Mr Jarosław Spychała applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for the word trade mark LEGO-LOGOS Z-330692 for services in Classes 35, 36 and 41. The PPO informed the applicant that his trade mark is similar to series of signs registered and owned by LEGO Juris A/S. Mr Spychała argued that the applied sign is the neologism derived from the ancient Greek language, and the term LEGO simply means “to read, think or speak”, and the term LOGOS means “learning” in a broad sense. In academic and education circles the term LEGO-LOGOS is associated with a particular form of education in philosophy and in building moral attitudes. The mark is directed at people who wish to explore philosophy and knowledge.
The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection because the applied trade mark was similar to the word trade mark LEGO R-72961 that was registered with an earlier priority for almost similar services. Mr Spychała filed a complaint against this decision and argued that the fact that compared signs share the same identical word element is not sufficient to refuse the protection for the later trade mark. The most important was the subject of the applied trade mark – a philosophical concept developed by the applicant and its popularization.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1201/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court noted that the PPO properly made the comparison of goods and services and did not erred in comparison of both signs. The VAC agreed with the PPO that the word element LEGO can also mean to fold or to assemble, and thus relate to specific products – blocks that are marked by registered trademarks of LEGO Juris A/S. The Court pointed out that the applicant while describing the project of philosophical education under the name LEGO-LOGOS has also showed that he drew the expression of LEGO from Danish language. Regardless of what language (Ancient Greek or Danish) the dominant element LEGO was taken, it is a word that does not exist in the Polish language. Its importance in ancient Greek or Danish is not understandable for the average Polish recipient of goods or services. It may be related to the characteristics of goods – just blocks marked with this sign. Mr Spychała filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 March 2014 case file II GSK 146/13 dismissed it.
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition filed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company against the decision on the grant of the right of protection for the word trade mark TEFAPAK R-199130 that was applied for the Polish company SINOGRAF S.A.
E.I. du Pont argued that the sign TEFAPAK is similar to its trade mark TEFLON R-49573 that was registered in Poland in 1968, and to its CTM TEFLON that was registered in 1996. According to the US company, the compared goods are identical or similar, and the signs share the same prefix TEF, which could lead to consumers’ confusion.
SINOGRAF S.A. requested the PPO to dismiss the opposition, and argued that the goods are directed to competent consumers of the proper level of technical knowledge, who have knowledge and experience in the field of materials, and thus much greater possibility of distinguishing different trade marks than the average recipient.
The PPO dismissed the opposition and found that the trade marks at issue are not similar, since they have significantly different overall impression both in the the visual and aural aspects. The PPO noted that there is no likelihood of confusion and it could not include the likelihood of association, because the goods are targeted to specialized recipients. E.I. du Pont filed a compliant against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 301/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the Polish Patent Office correctly established all circumstances of the case. The VAC agreed that the goods are identical or similar, however, the Court did not agree with the argument that the compared signs are similar to the extent that could lead to likelihood of confusion. In the opinion of the Court, the trade mark are not similar, so arguments about the use of someone else’s reputation and the reputation of the trade mark can not be justified. Dissimilar signs can not induce associations of customers, so there can be no conscious imitation and benefit from someone else’s reputation. E.I. du Pont filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Adminitrative Court in its judgment of 20 March 2014 case file II GSK 2005/12 dismissed it.
The Court of Justice of the EU in its judgment of 6 February 2014 in Case C‑98/13 ruled that the Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003 of 22 July 2003 concerning customs action against goods suspected of infringing certain intellectual property rights and the measures to be taken against goods found to have infringed such rights must be interpreted as meaning that the holder of an intellectual property right over goods sold to a person residing in the territory of a Member State through an online sales website in a non-member country enjoys the protection afforded to that holder by that regulation at the time when those goods enter the territory of that Member State merely by virtue of the acquisition of those goods. It is not necessary, in addition, for the goods at issue to have been the subject, prior to the sale, of an offer for sale or advertising targeting consumers of that State.
On August 2011, the Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for a trade mark owned by a Polish entity. On 12 September 2012, the Austrian company and the Polish business filed a complaint against the decision of the PPO. The Austrian entrepreneur claimed that it is a legal successor in the case of the invalidated trade mark. As evidence, the company provided an agreement of transfer of trade mark rights.
In a letter of 6 November 2012, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw called on the applicant, represented by the patent attorney, to submit a document setting out the authority to represent the applicant, i.e. the original or certified copy of an extract from the official register of companies, which would prove that a person who signed the PoA was a persons properly authorized to represent the applicant on the day of granting the power of attorney that has been attached to the complaint, together with a sworn translation into Polish, within thirty days under pain of dismissal of the action. The letter was delivered to the patent attorney on 12 November 2012. On 12 December 2012, the Court received a request for an extension of the deadline for filing the requested documents. The applicant argued that the person responsible in the applicant’s company for providing such documents was on leave in November 2012, and later, the document was sent by mail, however, it has not been delivered on time.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its order of 31 January 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 rejected the complaint due to the failure to comply with the Court’s request of 6 November 2012. The Court noted that the deadline to correct formal deficiencies of a complaint is a statutory deadline. Statutory deadlines that are set for parties and participants in the proceedings cannot be extended or shortened. In addition, the VAC cited the order of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2006 case file I FSK 29/06, and noted that the applicant, while deciding to start its business in Poland, should properly protect its interests, by preparing documents that would authenticate PoAs granted to persons who represent the company, among others, in administrative proceedings. The Court also noted that 80 days have passed from the date of delivery of the letter to the attorney of the Austrian company, but the requested documents were not received by the Court.
In the letter of 20 March 2013, both applicants filed a request to restore the deadline in order to supplement formal deficiencies of the complaint. The request was based on the fact that the person authorized to issue and deliver of the document was long absent, and finally in December 2012, a copy of this document in German, was sent by mail. The whole delay was caused by the Christmas holidays, abroad stay, and his illness in January 2013. The application had attached a copy of the scanned document in German that was received via e-mail.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order of 25 July 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 refused to restore the deadline and ruled that the action in the administrative proceedings that was taken by the party after the expired deadline is deemed as ineffective, while, in the case where a party has failed to act without its fault, the court decides on the request to restore the deadline. The request should be submitted to the court in which the action was to be made within seven days from the time of cessation of the cause of failure to comply with the deadline. The requesting party must substantiate circumstances indicating a lack of its fault in complying with the established deadline. The criterion of lack of fault, which is a prerequisite for the validity of the request to restore the deadline is based on the party’s fulfillment of an obligation to act in special care when making a procedural step. Both legal comentators and the case law of the Supreme Administrative Court states, that in assessing the occurrence of this evidence, the court should adopt an “objective measure of care” which may be required of each party who duly cares about their interests. The lack of fault can only be proved when the party could not remove the obstacle even with the greatest effort. The Court decided that the circumstances indicated by the applicant did not exclude the possibility to meet the deadline in order to fulfill formal deficiencies of the complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 19 February 2014 case file II GSK 248/14 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by both companies.
According to the provisions of Article 7 of the Act on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Liability for Damage Caused by a Dangerous Product – PRCLL – (in Polish: o ochronie niektórych praw konsumentów oraz o odpowiedzialności za szkodę wyrządzoną przez produkt niebezpieczny) of 2 March 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw), No 22, item 271 with subsequent amendments, the consumer who concluded the so-called “distance contract” may withdraw from it without giving reasons, by way of an appropriate written statement, within the period of ten days from the conclusion of the contract. The “distance contract” or contracts concluded at a distance are defined as contracts concluded without simultaneous presence of both parties, in which one party is deemed as a consumer (a natural person not performing any business activities), by way of a use of means of communication at a distance, in particular order form without the address or addressed, serial letter, press advertising with a printed order form, catalogue, telephone, radio, television, automatic calling machine, videophone, videotext, electronic mail, facsimile machine, provided that the party to the contract with the consumer is the entrepreneur who organised in such a way its business activity.
The Polish Company Decoratum, owner of endo.pl website that sells children clothes, provided the TOS according to which a consumer willing to withdraw from a purchase, has had to return the purchased goods in order to make the withdrawal legally effective. However, such provisions are inconsistent with the PRCLL. The Act does not require the consumer to perform any additional actions, except filing a written statement (declaration of will to withdraw from a contract). The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection initiated proceedings against Decorum and found that the company did not provided its consumers proper written information that they have the right to return purchased products. The President in its decision of 21 November 2013 no. RKT-38/2013 ordered the Company to pay a fine in the amount of 15.084 PLN. The entrepreneur abandoned the use of the challenged practices so it was possible to decrease the financial penalty. The decision is final.
On August 2008, The Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark TEFLEX Q R-211213 for goods in Class 9 such as optical apparatus and instruments, spectacle frames, sunglasses, eyeglasses, articles for the manufacture of spectacles, spectacle cases, chains for spectacles, sports eyeglasses, optical lenses, optical glasses, optical products, and services in Class 44 such as optical services, medical assistance, medical clinics, for the Polish company Krasnodębski i S-ka OPTIBLOK Spółka Jawna.
Eschenbach Optik GmbH filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. The German company argued that the trade mark TEFLEX Q is similar to its CTM t-flex no. 001821651 that was registered for goods in Class 9 such as spectacles and spectacle frames. Moreover, it pointed out that the questioned trade mark has been applied for registration in bad faith, and its registration and use may lead to the infringement of the applicant’s property rights and the unfounded use of the reputation of the t-flex designation. The fact that the registered sign is confusingly similar and resembles t-flex brand for the same narrow class of products was an argument for the bad faith. Such action indicated the intention to use consumers’ knowledge of products bearing t-flex sign. The brand t-flex is a fanciful designation and it was extremely unlikely for the OPTIBLOK to apply for registration of the sign that was very similar. It was merely a coincidence. The German company noted that it conducts its business in more than 80 countries, including Poland. From the beginning, the Company manufactured and sold of glasses and optical devices, and TITANflex technology is one of the most important of its products. The Polish company is a competitor on the local market. The registration and use of the trade mark TEFLEX Q infringes the Community trade mark t-flex and violates the property rights of Eschenbach Optik GmbH. The existence of similar signs can result in negative consequences for clients and lead them to confusion with regard to the origin of goods. The infringement of the reputation of the t-flex sign was based on its dilution. While referring to the similarity of the goods, the German company noted that the services of class 44 are complementary to the goods in Class 9.
The Polish company argued that it did not act in bad faith, because before filing the trade mark application, it used services of a patent and trade mark attorney and therefore acted negligently. At the time of registration there was no identical or similar signs to TEFLEX Q mark. Additionally, the brand t-flex does not have distinctive character, because there are tens of thousands of products with the same name in the world.
The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark TEFLEX Q R- 211213 because, it found that the characters are very similar. However, PPO did not agree with the argument that the application was made in bad faith. According to settled case-law and legal commentators, the mere fact that one party applies for a trade mark similar to a sign used by the other party is not deemed as acting in bad faith. The bad faith must be proved based on other factors than knowledge of market presence of similar brands and signs, such factors include for instance dishonesty in relation to the interests of another entrepreneur. The reputation of the trade mark t-flex was also not proved. The mere statement that the German company had its Polish subsidiary was not sufficient to prove that Eschenbach Optik GmbH was present on the Polish market before the questioned trade mark was applied.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 February 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1885/11 dismissed it and ruled that the PPO referred precisely and in detail to all facts and evidence of the case. OPTIBLOK filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 January 2014 case file II GSK 1542/12 dismissed it.
The German company Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Co. oHG filed before the Polish Patent Office a request to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for the word trade mark ELDENA R-111776 registered for Piotr Maciejec and Robert Hrebowicz for goods in Class 3 such as cosmetics, soaps, perfumery, deodorants, bath lotions. Aldi Einkauf interpreted its legal interest from the provisions of the Polish Constitution and the Polish Act on Freedom of Economic Activity (in Polish: ustawa o swobodzie dzialalnosci gospodarczej), and argued that the owners did not genuinely used their trade mark for 5 years. As the owner of the word CTM ELDENA No. 003430188, Aldi also noted that the owners of the Polish registration opposed the use of Aldi’s sign in Poland. Mr Maciejewiec and Hrebowicz questioned the legal interest of the applicant claiming that the Aldi has not registered its business in Poland. The company Aldi sp. z o.o. from Chorzów was established and registered in the National Court Register (register of entrepreneurs) on January 2006, and the first stores were opened on 25 February 2008. Therefore, assuming that the company Aldi sp. z o.o. is kind of a representative of the applicant on the Polish territory, the beginning date to establish legal interest of Aldi Einkauf should be the start date of sale of the applicant’s products, as it happened on 25 February 2008. Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz deemed Aldi’s request as premature due to the fact that in the period from 14 January 2005 to 25 February 2008, the disputed right of protection did not restrict the applicant’s activities in Poland, and they decided not to discuss with the arguments on the lack of genuine use, nor to provide any evidence in this matter. Aldi Einkauf argued that it received a cease and desist letter from the owners of the questioned trade mark, and provided evidence that the Polish company Aldi sp. z o.o. is a licensee of the CTM ELDENA.
The Polish Patent Office decided on the lapse of the right of protection. The PPO ruled that Aldi Einkauf proved its legal interest to request for the lapse of the right of protection for the mark at issue, because this sign was a restriction on conduct of Aldis’s business, in which the Company intended to use the designation ELDENA. Aldi submitted the advertising prospect of Aldi’s stores in Poland from 2008, with the photos of a lotion and soaps marked with ELDENA sign, as the evidence of an intention to use the CTM No. 003430188 on the Polish market. The PPO ruled that Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz did not provide any evidence on genuine use of their trade mark. They decided to file a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 April 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 201/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the “collision” of two trade mark rights was sufficient to establish the existence of a legal interest to file a request for the lapse of the right of protection. In its essence, the legal interest (locus standi) lies in overlapping of legal spheres of two or more entities, in such a way that the right held by one entity interferes with the full enjoyment of the rights held by another entity.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 January 2014 case file II GSK 1500/12 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz.
Eller Service s.c., the owner of hosting service available at pobieraczek.pl, was sending to its customers misleading information in order to intimidate them and persuade to pay for serviced they did not directly order. The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection decided that the clients of the website pobieraczek.pl received messages suggesting a criminal offence. Meanwhile, only a court issuing the judgment, may determine whether a crime was committed. An entrepreneur can not intimidate its consumers. Even the hypothetical suggestion that there will be filed a complaint or a private suit, is against the law. Entrepreneurs cannot intimidate consumers in order to force them to make their payments, and cannot lead consumers into legal confusion. The President of the OCCP ordered the company to pay a penalty of more than 215 thousand PLN. Eller Service filed a complaint against this decision.
The Court of Competition and Consumer Protection in its judgment of 13 December 2013 case file XVII AmA 76/12 upheld that decision. The judgment is not final.
The “Nigdy Więcej” (Never Again) Association and the “Zielone Światło” (Green Light) Foundation organized a social action entitled “Nazism never again on Allegro”. It was a protest against a Polish auction website Allegro.pl which allowed to buy and sell different Nazi gadgets and memorabilia. The Foundation together with a writer, artist and social activist Jerzy Masłowski prepared an illustration with Allegro.pl logotype in which in which two L letters were changed and shaped as the SS symbol. This illustration was used on postcards that were handed out to different people during the street-action that happened near Metro Świętokrzyska in Warsaw on 21 March 2010.
On 20 April 2010, the Foundation received a cease and desist letter from QXL Poland – the owner of Allegro. The Company requested the removal from all public places of all publications, photographs, posters and billboards, and other materials that included the altered trade mark. QXL demanded destruction of all the above mentioned materials and asked the Foundation to publish an apology on its website, as well as in the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. The Foundation refused to comply.
QXL Poland sued the “Zielone Światło” foundation and Jerzy Masłowski for the infringement of personal rights. During the trial, the Foundation argued that it has conducted correspondence with Allego with regard to products with fascist symbols or products referring to fascist ideology, that were offered at different auctions. However, it has not brought the intended effect, because Allegro.pl did not remove these items from its website. For this reason, the Foundation organized the street action. The Foundation argued that from 8 June 2010, the provisions of Article 256 of the Criminal Code were amended.
§ 1. Whoever publicly promotes a fascist or other totalitarian system of state or incites hatred based on national, ethnic, race or religious differences or for reason of lack of any religious denomination
shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.
§ 22 The same punishment shall be imposed on anyone, who for the purpose of dissemination, produces, records or import, acquire, stores, possess, presents, transports or transfers a print, record or other item of the content specified in § 1 or being a carrier of the fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism..
§ 3 A crime is not committed by a perpetrator of a forbidden act specified in § 2, if he or she commits the said act in the course of artistic, educational, collectible or scientific activity.
The Foundation concluded that its action was a response to long-term omission of Allegro. The action was organized to draw the attention of relevant authorities and the public at auctions that poses a danger to others. It sought to protect an important public interest, and therefore was not unlawful. In addition, the Foundation argued that according to the legal doctrine the criticism aimed at improving the reality is not illegal, even if it is excessively expressive in description and in negative assessment, as well as it’s impolite way of expression and presentation of arguments, if it is justified by the importance of issues raised and the literary form that was used. Moreover, the scope of permissible criticism depends on the weight of social affairs, and in case of doubt, freedom of expression takes precedence, and in some cases even offensive criticism is acceptable. If the case requires so, the criticism might be very offensive, and it may even seek to destroy the enemy, for example, in the dispute against pedophilia or against the view that is glorifying Stalin. The Foundation argued also that a request for legal protection raised by Allegro cannot ban the Foundation and other individuals from expressing their critical opinions of the plaintiff’s conduct. Such behavior constitutes an abuse of the subjective right as decided by the Appeallate Court in Lódź in its judgment of 25 May 2006 case file I ACa 15/06, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 512493.
On 9 November 20011, a lawyer representing the Foundation presented a legal opinion issued by Prof. Wojciech Sadurski. Prof. Sadurski wrote that there was no violation of personal interests. In the opinion of the author, the case brought by QXL Poland illustrates the conflict between two types of claims related to absolute rights protected by the law. The claims relating to freedom of expression, and intellectual property claims relating to the protection of trade marks owned by QXL Poland. Citing the case law of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, prof. Sadurski argued that freedom of speech is superior to other constitutional rights and freedoms. He noted that limiting the right to freedom of expression by issuing a ban on speech, would violate the essence of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Prof. Sadurski cited Smith v Wal-Mart Stores, 537 F.Supp.2d 1302 (ND GA 2008), however he pointed out that the Foundation does not conduct any commercial activity, and the risk of consumers’ confusions is clearly excluded. Please bear in mind that such opinions are treated by the Courts as private documents, not as the expert witness evidence/testimony. The case is pending and the next hearing is scheduled on 6 February 2012.
QXL Poland filed also a request for preliminary injunction. The District Court in Warsaw in its order of 20 January 2011 case file XXIV C 1035/10 dismissed it during a closed-door court session (in camera). However, the Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its decision of 5 May 2011 case file I ACz 671/11 decided to secure the claim of QXL. The Court prohibited the Foundation and Jerzy Masłowski from transmitting and disseminating on their websites of any publications or materials containing the questioned trade mark.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 March 2013 case file XXIV C 1035/10 ruled that the “Zielone Światło” (Green Light) Foundation infringed personal rights of Allegro, such as reputation and fame. The Court decided that the demonstrations against the sale of Nazi memorabilia and interference with the logo of the portal were too excessive and bore the risk of linking the portal with Nazi organizations.
The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 9 January 2014 case file I ACa 841/2013 dismissed Allegro’s claims. The Court noted that in this case there was a conflict of values, but also drew attention to the historical context of the sale of items referring to the Nazi ideology. The court held that undoubtedly there has been violation of the good name of the plaintiff – the name of the portal website, and in consequence, it could interfere with its business because some customers would not have positive opinions regarding the auction site. However, the rough means of expression that were undertaken by the Defendants, in order to remove the sale of a Nazi gadgets, excluded illegality. According to the Court this actions proved to be effective – have led to restrictions on the sale of Nazi’s memorabilia . What’s more important, the Court held that the Defendants acted to protect a legitimate public interest. The court ruled that artistic criticism of such business activities of an auction portal is not an unlawful action and deserves constitutional protection. The judgment is final.
Roman Giertych sued Ringer Axel Springer, the publisher of fakt.pl website, for the infringement of personal interests. Mr Giertych demanded that defamatory comments posted at fakt.pl should be removed by the publisher. He also seek for the compensation and the apology to be published on some websites.
Ringer Axel Springer argued that it is not responsible for the comments that appeared on its website based on the provisions afforded in the Polish Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services by Electronic Means – PSEM – (in Polish: ustwa o świadczeniu usług droga elektroniczną), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 144, item. 1204 with subsequent amendments, and the TOS that excluded the liability of the publisher for vulgar or offensive comments.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 20 October 2011 case file III C 330/11 agreed that all these comments were defamatory, however, the Court ruled that there is a different legal status of the editorial part of the website that included newspaper articles, and another status has to be attributed to a part that included the users’ comments – i.e. an internet forum, even if these comments were posted under the article placed by the owner of a website/web hosting provider. Despite claiming the right to control the content of entries (comments) that were made by website’s readers, in the light of the provisions of the PSEM, the publisher has no such obligation. The Court decided that the publisher can not be held responsible for offensive comments posted on its website, however it can be found responsible only in case it failed to remove such comments, after obtaining positive knowledge of the unlawful nature of such entries. It means that under the Polish law, the publisher is not liable for the infringement of personal rights, but only for a possible damage that is based on the general principles that are provided in the Polish Civil Code. Mr Giertych appealled.
The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 11 October 2012 case file VI A Ca 2/12 made a clear distinction between the services provided by Ringer Axel Springer. The first one was a news service of a daily newspaper made available for free in the electronic form under the domain name fakt.pl, and the second was a free service of the internet forum. The provisions of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendments, should be applied to the first service, and the provisions of the PSEM to the second. The Court ruled that comments posted for free, by anonymous users of fakt.pl website under the article that was an online version of a paper edition, do not constitute press materials as defined in the Article 7(2)(i) of the APL. The lack of any influence from the editorial over anonymously published comments, not to mention any of their prior verification makes this kind of speech free of control and as such cannot be regarded as a press material. The Court disagreed with Mr Giertych that such comments should be treated as “letters sent to the editor” of a journal that is published electronically. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 28 September 2000 case file V KKN 171/98 ruled that letters to the editor are the press material if they were sent to the editor for publication, and the editor-in-chief is responsible for publication of press releases, however, the publication of the letter to the editor must be preceded by careful and accurate checking of the information contained in such a letter to the editor. The Court agreed that such comments could be deemed as letter to the editor according to the APL, but only, if they were published in the paper version of the magazine, therefore, the editor (editor-in-chief) or the publisher would have full control over the content of such comments/letters. Users of fakt.pl do not send their their opinions and comments to the editorial of fakt.pl for publication on a discussion forum that exists on that same website, but they decide themselves about such a publication. The editor-in-Chief cannot therefore be responsible for comments published by third parties, because he or she had no control over the content or the action. The Court also ruled that Mr Giertych drawn incorrect conclusions as to the Terms of Service of fakt.pl website, in which the editorial of fakt.pl allegedly reserved the right and at the same time undertook its control over the content posted on fakt.pl website, including comments, and the right to manage them, especially the right to decide which comment deserves publication and which does not. First, the Court found that Ringer Axel Springer has reserved only the right and not an obligation to manage of comments posted by users, secondly, this right was reserved in the TOS not on behalf of the editorial of a journal that is published in electronic form under the domain name fakt.pl, but on behalf of the administrator of the IT system, thirdly, the reserved right applied not to decisions about publication of a particular comment on the website, but to decisions about its blocking, moderation or deletion. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal. Mr Giertych filed a cassation appeal.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 10 January 2014 case file I CSK 128/13 partially agreed with Mr Giertych and returned the case to the lower court for reconsideration. The SC held that if the comments were defamatory and included vulgar words, the IT system applied at fakt.pl should have automatically removed such comments, but it did not, therefore it must be presumed that the publisher of a website, could know about offensive comments. If there was such knowledge, then the publisher/editor is liable for the infringement of personal interests. The Supreme Court established the so-called presumption of facts based on the provisions of the Article 231 of the Civil Proceedings Code. The court may conclude and consider as established facts, that are relevant for the outcome of the case, if such a conclusion can be derived from other established facts (presumption of fact).
Regardless of the cassation complaint filed in this case, Mr Giertych filed a complaint before the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. Mr Giertych requested the Tribunal to decided whether Article 14 of the PSEM is consistent with the principle of the rule of law, the right to protect of private life, family, honor and good name.
On Augut 2013, Polish telecom Polkomtel sp. z o.o. started an advertising campaign of its mobile Internet access services. In a short movie, a girl named Basia is starting new life by dumping her boyfriend and moving to a new flat with an Internet access based on LTE technology. She mentions that her boyfriend had Internet access provided by Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. under the brand name Neostrada. She is very happy about the changes. The ad ends with the statement that Internet provided by Plus (brand name of Polkomtel) is faster from Neostrada. This comparison is based on the ranking provided by SpeedTest.pl of July 2013.
On 9 September 2013, Telekomunikacja Polska requested the District Court in Warsaw to issue a preliminary injuntion against Polkomtel, in order to prohibit acts of unfair competition and trade mark infringement of the word trade mark NEOSTRADA R-182762. Telekomunikacja noted that Polkomtel is one its major competitors on the Polish telecommunication market. The Company argued that Polkomtel infringed its trade mark rights by taking unfair advantage of reputation and distinctive character of the NEOSTRADA brand, and the advertising movie was comparative advertising contrary to good practices, and as such, should be deemed as unfair competition.
The District Court in Warsaw in its order of 23 September 2013 case file XVI GCo 204/13 dismissed the request. The Court held that premises to secure the claims are based on substantiation of claims, i.e. on providing prima facie evidence of the infringement and legitimate interest in granting the order. According to the Court, Telekomunikacja did not provide evidence on reputation of its trade mark and Polkomtel did not infringe the right of protection for NEOSTRADA, because this sign was only used to specify the service to which it relates. The word was used as a name for a given service, not as a trade mark. The Court noted that advertising that allows to identify, directly or indirectly, the competitor or products or services offered by the competitor, described as “comparative advertising”, should be deemed the act of unfair competition if it is contrary to good practices. However, the short movie clip published by Polkomtel is not in any way contrary to such practices, because it is not misleading and it does not affect market decisions as to the purchase of goods or services. The Court agreed with the decision of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection of 6 August 2009 case no. DDK 4/2009, according to which, advertising is deemed as misleading when a consumer gets false idea of the goods or services, and misleading information influence the decision to purchase these products.
See also “Trade mark law, case XXII GWo 68/12“.
The Polish company INTERKOBO sp. z o.o., the owner of word trade mark MYBABY R-148924 registered for goods in Class 28 such as games, toys, sporting goods, requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate in part the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark MY SWEET BABY R-187751 registered for goods in Classes 12, 20, 25 and 28, and owned by PEXIM Artur Kamiński. INTERKOBO claimed high recognition of the MYBABY reputed trade mark among buyers of children’s toys and a high degree of similarity between the goods. The company noted that since 15 years it is one of the largest importers of toys in Poland. PEXIM argued that its trade mark is registered in class 28 for goods such as children’s toys – dolls, doll beds, cradles for dolls, doll furniture, doll clothing. PEXIM operates since 15 June 2001, and its activity is the manufacture of wicker and wood, which are exported. Wickerworks are made for young children. These are strollers, cribs and miniatures of these products as toys for children. The products are bearing a trade mark and a company name, therefore, the risk of confusion is excluded.
The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection in part of goods in Class 28. The PPO ruled that both trade marks are used to designate similar goods. The dominant element in both signs is the word baby, because it is a base or core to the other words, and in particular, their meanings so it shows that the these trade marks have a similar range of meaning, therefore there is a high risk of association by the public between the marks, and the likelihood that the consumer may be confused as to the origin of goods. PEXIM filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1407/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the PPO properly carried out the proceedings and correctly interpreted the law. According to the Court there was homogenity of goods in Class 28, and even the identity of the goods, because the Nice Classification was subject to change over the years, but the changes did not have any historically impact on the signs and the goods offered. The difference of one word that occured in the compared signs was so unimportant that it did not make them different enough to rule out the risk of confusion in the ordinary course of trade. PEXIM filed a cassation complaint, and additionally, a motion to stay the execution of the decision. The Company argued that the contested decision involves very high cost and its implementation would include a very serious consequences for its economic activity, and thus would cause irreparable consequences and expose the company to serious losses.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 27 July 2013 case file II GSK 270/12 dismissed the motion. The SAC ruled that PEXIM, despite its obligation to submit such evidence, has not shown the existence of statutory grounds that would allow to stay the execution of the contested decision. According to the Court, PEXIM only claimed very serious and irreparable consequences and big losses. Meanwhile, while citing in support of the motion specified circumstances, the Company should be able to substantiate their occurrence, thus going beyond the vague and unsubstantiated claims. By pointing to difficulties to reverse the effects of the contested decision, PEXIM did not substantiate the existence of conditions justifying the stay of execution. Therefore, the Court had no chances for the objective assessment. The arguments that the stay of execution of the decision does not endanger the health or human life, and it is not associated with exposure to the national economy from heavy losses, as well as it does not affect the party’s interest, were during the assessment of the motion irrelevant, since it is not a ground for staying the execution that is provided for in the Polish Law on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts. The SAC held that a reference to likely allegations that were raised in the cassation complaint cannot determine the stay, since at this stage it would be pointless and premature. The Court also noted that the order to stay the execution can be amended or repealed at any time if circumstances of the case change. The party seeking for the amendment or repeal of a decision or action, should demonstrate such a change of circumstances that would make its request justifiable and well-founded.