Trade mark law, case III SA/Wr 499/08

January 30th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 28 January 2009 case file III SA/Wr 499/08 held that the powers of sanitary authorities include the power to control of foodstuffs also in terms of their marking and labeling. According to article 120 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 subsequent amendments, the trade mark is protected as a whole regardless of its composition. So questioning the legality of a trade mark that was made by the State Sanitary Inspection, with the assumption that part of the label of foodstuff is a registered trademark, lead to an unacceptable invasion of the powers reserved by law for the Polish Patent Office. Indeed, such action of SSI would, in fact, “prohibit” the use of a trade mark, while the State Sanitary Inspection cannot encroach on the powers reserved by law for other state authorites.

Article 120
1. Any sign capable of being represented graphically may be considered as trademark, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

2. The following, in particular, may be considered as trademarks within the meaning of paragraph (1): words, designs, ornaments, combinations of colours, the three-dimensional shape of goods or of their packaging, as well as melodies or other acoustic signals.

3. Any references in this Act to:
(i ) trademarks shall also mean service marks,
(ii) goods shall mean, in particular, industrial or handicraft goods, agriculture products or natural products, such as, in particular, waters, minerals, raw materials, as well as, subject to Article 174(3), services,
(iii) counterfeit trademarks shall mean identical trademarks illegally used or trademarks which in the course of trade can not be distinguished from the trademarks registered for the goods covered by the right of protection,
(iv) earlier trademarks shall mean the trademarks applied for registration or registered basing on the earlier priority.

A situation where an entrepreneur has advertised tea, using only, image of cannabis-like leaves cannot be considered as advertising of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. In this case, it was not a promotion of any other substances prohibited by the law because, there was no name of any specific drug or psychotropic substance. Moreover, this issue goes beyond the competence of the State Sanitary Inspection.

The cassation complaint was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 31 May 2010 case file II OSK 832/09.