Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 121/09

October 13th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 9 October 1996, the Polish Patent Office registered the trade mark XAVIER LAURENT R-92393 for goods in class 3 such as personal deodorants. The trade mark is currenty owned by the Polish company HOUSE Spółka z o.o. from Zielona Góra. The International Trade Corporation Limited, the owner of XL XAVIER LAURENT IR-763083 trade mark filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection for XAVIER LAURENT R-92393 trade mark.

The ITC claimed it has been active in the cosmetics industry fo the long time and the most popular goods are these marked with the Xavier Laurent brand. The company had a national distributor of its products in Poland which on March 1994 applied to the Polish Patent Office for the trade mark registration of XAVIER LAURENT sign and later on it has assigned the right of protection for XAVIER LAURENT R-92393 to HOUSE. The ITC based its request on article 8(1) and (2) of the old Polish Trade Mark Act – TMA – (in Polish: ustawa o znakach towarowych) of 1985, published in Dziennik Ustaw (Journal of Laws) of 1985 No 5, pos. 15, with subsequent amendments.

A trade mark shall not be registrable if:
1) it is contrary to law or to the principles of social coexistence.
2) it infringes the personal or economic rights of third parties;

The request was also mentioning article 6septies of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The Polish Patent Office dismissed ICT’s request and the company filed a complaint to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw. On 5 May 2009, the VAC in a judgment case file VI SA/Wa 121/09, ruled that article 8(i) of the TMA must be interpreted broadly and concerns not only the form of trade mark, but also other subjective elements. The basis for invalidation may be, therefore, not only the characteristics of a trade mark itself, but also the reprehensible conduct of the applicant/owner. For the correctness of such interpretation of provisions of article 8(i) speaks the provisions of article 31 of the TMA that expressly provides for the invalidation of the registration rights acquired as a result of bad faith behaviour.

The VAC also held that article 161 of the IPL specifies the entity protected by this provision as “a person entitled to the exclusive use of the mark in a foreign country.” The protection provided for in article 161 may be used by any entity (entrepreneur) from abroad, which will demonstrate that at least in one Member state a specific trade mark is its “property”, especially it has the right of exclusive use that came from the relevant decision of public authorities (patent organ) in that country. The VAC anulled the Polish Patent Office’s decision from 2008 and decided that the decision was not subject to execution. The Judgment is not final yet.