The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 September 2006 case file II GSK 115/06 held that the surname or family name could serve as a trade mark that distinguishes the goods or services of a particular undertaking from goods or services of the same kind that originate from other entrepreneurs. However, in the present case, the owner of the trade mark KOZŁOWSKI R-115647, before he applied for registration of this sign, had the knowledge that for many years before registration of his trade mark, the Kozłowskis family have used their surname to designate products such as brushes and brooms. Pursuant to Article 7(1) of the TMA, as a trade mark may be registered only such a sign, that possess sufficient distinctiveness in normal economic activity. Therefore, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 December 2005 case file VI SA/Wa 905/05 properly found that, in the case described above, the purchaser of the goods would have considerable difficulty in identifying the source of origin of goods and reasonably assumed that the trade mark subject of this preceedings does not have a concrete distinctive character.
Archive for: October, 2006
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 November 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 1705/06, published in LEX under the no. 299601, by referring directly to the wording of the IPL, ruled that the exemption from the registration of trade marks classified as descriptive does not mean that every trade mark that consist of elements that describe the product, its qualities or characteristics, is deprived the registrability. Only signs which may serve in trade to provide information about the characteristics of the goods should be recognized as descriptive trade marks under the TMA.
This case concerned the request for the invalidation of the right of protection for word-figurative trade mark “CIEPŁA PODŁOGA” R-155237 registered for goods in Class 11 such as heating mats, owned by “ELEKTRA” Włodzimierz Nyc, Witold Nyc Spółka Jawna.
The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for word-figurative trade mark OCETIX R-135047 based on provisions of Article 8(2) 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. The request was filed by the competitior of Szczęsna Ewa DELTA L.T.D, who claimed its prior rights to the company name (firm).
A trademark shall not be registrable if:
1) it is contrary to law or to the principles of social coexistence;
2) it infringes the personal or economic rights of third parties;
Ewa Szczęsna filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 20 July 2005 case file VI SA/Wa 67/05 dissmissed the case. The VAC agreed with the PPO that the registration of the word-figurative trade mark OCETIX constituted the infringement of the firm of the competitor of Ewa Szczęsna, who established its undertaking in 1991. The Court ruled that the dominant element is the word OCETIX, it attracts the attention and has the distinctive character, while other elements are informative and are indicating the scope of the activities of Szczęsna Ewa DELTA L.T.D.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 April 2006 case file II GSK 377/05 upheld the contested judgment and ruled that in accordance with Article 164 of the IPL, the right of protection for a trade mark may be invalidated at the request of any person who has legitimate interest. Article 315(3) of the IPL provides the principle according to which the registrability of signs registered or applied for the registration before 22 August 2001, is assessed on the basis of existing regulations. Thus, the law underlying the assessment of trade mark protection for OCETIX that was applied for the registration on 14 October 1998 are the provisions of the TMA.
The SAC repeated that the right of protection for a trade mark is deemed as an exclusive, absolute, transferable and heritable property right. It’s a sign intended to distinguish the goods of one undertaking from those of the same type from another entrepreneur. A trade mark performs a distinctive, warranty and advertising functions. The Court noted also that in the course of trade, the category of distinctive signs, in addition to trade marks, are also brands/signs that are distinguishing of companies. The firm is one of such signs. It is the name under a which the registered merchant (general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company, joint stock company) operates its undertaking. The firm of an undertaking distinguishes a given undertaking from other undertakings, in the same and/or other object/way of business. See R. Skubisz, Prawo znaków towarowych. Komentarz (in English: Trade mark law. Commentary), Warszawa 1997, p. 13 and 17. The Court also ruled that the Paris Convention of 20 March 1883 on the Protection of Industrial Property, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 1975, No. 9, item. 51 and 52), introduced to the Polish law the term of the trade name, which previously was not used in the Polish legislation. The term collectively covers all the markings of companies enjoyed by the persons mentioned in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. The SAC agreed that Article 8 of the Convention does not constitute an independent basis to protect the trade name of the entrepreneur, because it does not specify conditions for such protection and does not indicate what claims should be used in the case of infringement of the rights to the company name. However, this affect the domestic law. See also “Trade mark law, case II SA 2914/01“. The Court ruled that the firm is protected under the Article 37 Code of Commerce (it was repealed by the Code of Commercial Companies later on) and Article 43 of the Civil Code. According to Article 37 of the Code of Commerce, the protection of the firm arises upon its entry into the commercial register, and will expire on the date a court order to withdraw its registration from the register comes into force. The infringement of the firm occurs if there is unlawful use by unauthorized person of a sign which does not distinguish definitively from the firm in a given locality (Article 37 in connection with Article. 35 of the Code of Commerce). Pursuant to Article 43 of the Civil Code, the firm is subject to the protection provided for personal rights/interests (Articles 23 and 24 of the CC). This protection arises from the date of the first use of a firm in business.