Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2038/09

July 14th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polish company Przedsiębiorstwo POLMOS Białystok Spółka Akcyjna, the owner of word-figurative and 3D trade mark “POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA” R-62081 and 3D trade mark R-85811, filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of the right of protection to word-figurative and 3D trade mark “VODKA Herbe de Pologne” R-155144, registered for BELVEDERE S.A.


POLMOS argued, inter alia, that there is a significant visual similarity between trade marks at issue. Its bottle has a blade of grass, which is very dominant and attracts the attention of the average consumer. Such assessment cannot be undermined by the fact that there are few blades of grass in the bottle representing the questioned trade mark. POLMOS argued that the registration of “VODKA Herbe de Pologne” threatens the reputation of its trade marks, and emphasized the role of grass in the bottle as a motif indicating the origin of the product. POLMOS added that the purpose of BELVEDERE’s actions was the parasitic use of the reputation of earlier trade marks owned by POLMOS.

In the opinion of the Polish Patent Office (PPO) these trade marks were visually dissimilar because of different bottle shape, color, the presence of a label in the contested mark and the lack of labels in the opposed one, number and appearance of components in liquid. These signs were incomparable in the phonetic/aural aspect, so they were also dissimilar, as the opposed trade mark lacks lettering. In the conceptual aspect the questioned trade mark contains a bunch of herbs inside the bottle and the word “herbe” which indicates that the vodka is herbal, and the opposed sign, contains a longitudinal component, but this element in general is not like weed-grass. Consequently, due to lack of similarity the PPO held that the opposition is unfounded. POLMOS filed a complaint.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 27 April 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 2038/09 held that in the case of trade mark reputation, a sign has to be examined as a whole, as the right of protection was granted for such a designation. It can not be allowed to examine every element of the sign separately, in isolation from the whole trade mark.


The Court also ruled that the similarity of signs is a prerequisite for examining whether in a particular situation there was infringement of the reputation of an earlier mark. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 207/07“. The VAC held that the absence of the similarity of signs, which also includes the possibility of their association, is the argument that the presence on the market of goods bearing the sign at issue will not affect in any way the alleged reputation and distinctive character of POLMOS’ trade marks.