Trade mark law, case I ACa 228/08

September 9th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

First, I owe my respectable readers a short explanation what Jarzebiak is.

Jarzebiak is a fruit vodka made of rowan infusion with the addition of fruit distillate and wine distilate and caramel. The drink has bright bronze colour, sometimes there is light or settlements.

One of the varieties of jarzebiak is “jarzebiak izdebnicki”, with the traditions of production reaching the sixteenth century. It is produced in Izdebnik (Lanckorona municipality). This dry vodka with the addition of rowan, herbs and young shoots of pine was also produced at Izdebnik’s manor of Archduke Rainer Habsburg in distillery called “Factory of Health Vodkas and Liquers” in XIX century.

The “Rowan Jarzebiak Vodka” brand is one of the oldest and most recognizable quality vodkas in Poland. The Company Polmos from Sieradz made this vodka as its flagship product. In April 2006, The Company Polmos from Lublin began production of its own jarzebiak. Polmos from Sieradz sued Polmos from Lublin before the civil court, arguing that Polmos Lublin was illegally using the Jarzebiak name for its products. Polmos from Sieradz based those arguments on the fact that, in 1989, the state-owned and subsequently privatized Polmos Companies were engaged in the division of the trade mark portfolio of their State’s monopolistic predecessor. The Jarzebiak Rowan Vodka brand was acquired by Polmos from Sieradz. The Company registered this mark in the Polish Patent Office in 2007, R-204893.


Polmos from Sieradz argued that Polmos Lublin committed an act of unfair competition by exploiting the reputation of the Polmos Sieradz product, at the same time damaging the Jarzebiak brand because Polmos Lublin produced less tasteful vodka with a lower alcohol content (36 percent, while that of Polmos Sieradz was 40 percent). This in consequence also allowed Polmos from Lublin to offer a cheaper product.

Polmos Lublin considered its competitor’s arguments unfounded, arguing that jarzebiak was a generic name that identified a type of drink: a rowan-based vodka. In Polmos Lublin’s opinion, such a term could not be monopolized by any company. The Lublin company also noted that the labels of the respective vodkas were very different and argued that customers would not be misled as to which company was a producer of ‘real’ jarzebiak vodka.

Jarzebiak Lublin

The District Court and the Appellate Court agreed with Polmos from Lublin’s arguments. The Appellate Court in its judgment case file Categories: Polish Appeallate Court | Polish District Court | similarity of signs | unfair competition delict.