Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1988/09

April 15th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Kraft Foods Polska Spółka Akcyjna from Warsaw, the owner of PRINCE POLO R-148617 trade mark gave a reasoned notice of opposition to a final decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a a right of protection to MARCO POLO R-174796 trade mark that was applied for by Zakłady Przemysłu Cukierniczego MIESZKO S.A. for goods in class 30.

Kraft Foods claimed that there is a risk of confusion between these trade marks, which is the result of the similarity of the compared signs and the identity of the goods. Kraft also submitted evidence to prove the reputation of PRINCE POLO trade mark. Mieszko argued that the signs are dissimilar because the graphic/figurative element of these marks is essential, and verbal elements are blurred or faint and even minor. Mieszko also found arguments of POLO PRINCE reputation very questionable, because even Kraft indicated that the goods for which its trade marks are registered marks are cheap and directed for the mass consumer.

The Polish Patent Office (PPO) In a decision of 23 April 2009, ruled that the same element POLO does not determine the similarity between both signs, because the differences occurring in the conceptual aspect rule out the risk of consumer confusion as to the origin of goods. The PPO held that contrary to the Kraft’s arguments, Marco Polo sign will primarily be associated by purchasers of goods with a famous explorer, because it is simply his name. However, PRINCE POLO sign, regardless of how it can be translated into Polish, is not used to identify a specific person and it is not a proper name. Despite the recognition of Kraft’s trade marks on the Polish market, the average consumer will associate MARCO POLO in the first place with a person of a traveler rather than as Kraft claimed with its PRINCE POLO trade marks. Therefore, the PPO rejected the notice of opposition. Kraft filed a complaint to the administrative court.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court (VAC) in Warsaw in a judgment of 11 February 2010, case file VI SA/Wa 1988/09, agreed with the PPO’s assessment of the similarity and ruled that since the signs are not similar then the discussion about using someone else’s reputation is not justified. Dissimilar signs cannot cause association in consumer’s mind, so there can be no question of imitation, and conscious deriving of benefits from someone else’s reputation.

Kraft filed a cassation complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 746/10“.