Trade mark law, case II GSK 385/08

November 14th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 26 June 1996 the Polish company “Sniezka” Chłodnia from Częstochowa applied for the figurative trade mark in Class 30 for goods such as ice creams. The graphic represented a black boy’s head. On 10 September 2001, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection R-132332.


On 31 July 1998, the Lodmor company from Gdansk applied for word-figurative trade mark “calypso lody smietankowe waniliowe LODMOR” Z-190131 in class 30 for goods such as ice creams, ice cream powder, ice cream binders. The PPO rejected Lodmor’s application justyfing its decision on priority of the “Sniezka” company’s trade mark.


Lodmor filed a request for trade mark invalidation. The company from Gdańsk claimed that “Sniezka” illegally appropriated a sign of a black boy’s head, which was put on Calypso ice creams in the ’70s and ’80s by companies that were part of the Union of the Freezing Industry (Lodmor is a legal successor of one of them). The PPO has invalidated “Sniezka” trade mark in 2006. The Office ruled that this sign was registered in contrary to principles of merchant’s honesty because the mark was already used for a long time by other entrepreneurs.

“Sniezka” Chłodnia company appealed. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 17 October 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 1005/07 held that Lodmor had no legal interest in filing a request for trade mark invalidation. The Court annulled PPO’s decision. The VAC held that the concept of legal interest in invalidation proceedings can not be derived from the fact that one company applies for a trade mark protection and there is an obstacle in the form of earlier registration. Such conclusion would lead to negation of principles that are the basis for granting rights for trade mark protection. In this case the interest involved only economic issues.

Lodmor filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 October 2008, case file II GSK 385/08 agreed with Lodmor’s arguments that VAC only referred to the trade mark application and it did not consider Lodmor’s legal interest. The SAC already issued decisions and opinions as regards the breach of principles of mercantile honesty and the bottom line of each ruling was that, in specific circumstances, a legitimate interest of a competitor may be found, as it was in Lodmor’s case. The Court held that every entrepreneur has the right to designate its products and services, with a trade mark, if it does not remain in conflict as to the form, duration and territorial aspect, with the absolute right that was previously obtained by another entity. An entrepreneur has a legal interest in the request for invalidation of the right of protection for a trade mark on the basis of circumstances provided in the request and conditions included in such a motion if the right of protection was granted in violation of the statutory requirements. The relevance and application of these conditions shall be assessed in proper proceedings. Therfore, the SAC returned the case to VAC for further reconsideration.