Internet domains and trade mark law, case I ACa 1228/05

June 14th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Appellate Court in Poznań in its judgment of 26 April 2006, case file I ACa 1228/05, published in electronic database LEX no. 214296, ruled that in the case of a trade mark in the form of a particular word, the word representing a sign it is important, so long as it has the distinctive character and it is possible to distinguish the goods supplied or manufactured by a company from the products of another company. The appearance of a sign that may be represented by letters written in different fonts was less important in the described case. The conclusion that the only the graphic/figurative similarity between the two marks would give a plaintiff the right to assert claims arising out from article 296 of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with later amendments, would render the protection resulting from this provision purely illusory and would wreck the sense of norms arising from this article.

Article 296
1. Any person whose right of protection for a trademark has been infringed or any person who is permitted by law to do so, may demand the infringing party to cease the infringement, to surrender the unlawfully obtained profits and in case of infringement caused by fault also to redress the damage:
(i) in accordance with the general principles of law,
(ii) by the payment of a sum of money at the amount corresponding to the license fee or of other reasonable compensation, which while being vindicated would have been due on account of consent given by the holder to exploit his trademark.

1a. To the claims referred to in paragraph (1) the provisions of Article 287(2) and (3) shall apply accordingly.

2. Infringement of the right of protection for a trademark consists of unlawful use in the course of trade of:
(i) a trademark identical to a trademark registered in respect of identical goods,
(ii) a trademark identical or similar to a trademark registered in respect of identical or similar goods, if a likelihood of misleading the public, including in particular a risk of associating the trademark with a registered trademark, exists;
(iii) a trademark identical or similar to a renown trademark registered for any kind of goods, if such use without due cause would bring unfair advantage to the user or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trademark.

3. The claims referred to in paragraph (1) shall also be enforceable against a person who only puts on the market the goods already bearing that trademark, provided that the goods do not originate from the right holder or from a party authorised by him to use the trademark.

4. When invoking the right of protection conferred by his trademark, the licensor may enforce the claims referred to in paragraph (1) against a licensee who breaches any provision in his licensing contract with regard to its duration and territory covered by the contract, the form covered by the contract in which the trademark may be used, as well as the scope of the goods for which the trademark may be used or the quality of the goods. This shall apply accordingly to the sub-license.

5. A holder of a right of protection for a trademark may enforce the claims referred to in paragraph (1) against a licensee or a sub-licensee in case where the provisions of the sub-license contract, referred to in paragraph (4) have been breached, as well as in the case, where the contract has been concluded in breach of Article 163(2).

The Court also held that the registration of a web site under a given domain name address, and conducting a business activity through, and also its advertising, complete the condition of “trade mark use”.

See also “Polish case law on domain names“.