Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1486/08

June 17th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 17 February 2005, Société des Produits Nestlé S.A. from Vevey applied to the Polish Patent Office to register the word-figurative trade mark Frappé Z-291280 for goods in class 30. On August 2005 Nestlé filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection of the FRAPPE R-13842 trade mark, registered for goods in class 30 and 32 owned by Polish company “MASPEX” Spólka z o.o. form Wadowice. Nestlé based its request on provisions of Article 7(2) and Article 8(3) 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.

(2) A sign shall not possess sufficient distinctiveness if it simply constitutes the generic designation of the product, if it simply makes a statement as to the properties, quality, number, amount, weight, price, purpose, manufacturing process, time or place of production, composition, function or usefulness of the goods or any similar information that does not enable the origin of the goods to be determined

Article 8(3)
A trade mark shall not be registrable if:
iii) it contains incorrect statements;

Nestlé argued that the word “frappe” is a generic term, widely used in trade, as a sign for chilled coffee beverages. The company based its legitimate interest to have standing in proceedings before the Polish Patent Office on the principle of freedom of access to the indications that have descriptive meaning. In addition, Nestlé informed the PPO that it had sent a warning letter to Maspex because the Polish company had introduced to the market a product with similar name. In Nestlé’s opinion the exclusive right granted to Maspex to mark its products with the word “frappe” was a “unlawful constitutional restriction”. After the hearings and careful analysis of the evidence provided by both parties, the PPO found that the word FRAPPE (even being foreign word) was a term used widely to describe the properties of a beverage (cold, frozen, with ice cubes), especially of coffee, or to determine the type of coffee and it could not serve as sign capable of distinguishing goods of one entrepreneur from goods of another entrepreneur in normal market conditions. The PPO also shared Nestlé’s position based on the article 8(3) of the TMA that the wide range of names of goods covered in the registration of the contested trade mark are not frappe. Maspex filed a complaint.

The Voivodeship Administrative Cout in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 October 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1486/08 fully agreed with the PPO’s decision and dismissed the complaint.