Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1601/08

January 28th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On July 4, 2002 Polish company Aldo sp. z o.o. applied for the right of protection for word-figurative mark ALDO S Z-252456 in classes 6, 19, 35, 37. The services indicated to operating a store and wholesalers with building materials. In 2005, The Polish Patent Office has issued a favourable decision and registered the submitted mark R-169096.

R-169096

German company Aldi Einkauf GmbH has opposed the registration. The opponent based its claims on two registrations. However, only the second of the presented trade marks ALDI R-173352 covered the contested class. This sign was also registered later in 2006 (the trade mark application was filled on June 11, 2002). After finding the opposition justified the The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office transformed it into the motion to cancel trade mark rights.

However, after parties submitted additional observations and after hearing oral arguments, The Board found that Aldi just started its business on the Polish market and does not offer or sell building materials so far. Aldo’s representative argued that the contested sign differs because of its figurative elements and due to small amount of letters and its ending there is no verbal similarity. Another argument presented that Aldo was using its sign since 1995 and there was no Aldi’s presence on the Polish market at this time. It was also noted that goods and services are aimed at the careful consumer so there is no risk in the association of the origin of such goods. Therefore, the PPO rejected the ALDI’s request in its decision of 26 February 2008 case act signature Sp.148/07. The PPO noted that contested wholesales services are alike but goods sold by Aldo are being offered in special shops where Aldi’s products are available in hipermarkets. The Board also held that both marks are not similar because they differ visually and they sound differently.

The German company filed a complain before the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw. In its complaint Aldi Einkauf still claimed that the disputed trade mark may lead to association with its brand. The German company alleged that the PPO wrongly assessed similarities. Aldi’s representative argued that the verbal aspect has greater importance in word-figurative trade marks. The letter “S” is separated from the word Aldo. Therefore, this expression will be perceived by the public as a dominant. However, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 11 December 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1601/08 dismissed Aldi’s complaint. The VAC held that PPO provided a proper and complete assessment of the disputed signs. The Adjudicative Board compared them globally, and also referred to the verbal elements. The difference of even a single letter is a sufficient factor to distinguish these signs, in visual, phonetic and aural perspective — said judge Ewa Marcinkowska, (the rapporteur). The judgment is not final yet. The cassation complaint may be filed before the Supreme Administrative Court.