Trade mark law, case II GSK 607/09

August 31st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

TRODAT POLSKA Sp. z o.o. from Warsaw applied for the right of protection for Pieczątka 2 Z-294822, Pieczątka 3 Z-294821, and Pieczątka 4 Z-294823 trade marks in class 13. Pieczątka means “stamp” in English. The Polish Patent Office in letters dated 27 March 2007 informed the applicant that these signs are not capable of serving as trade marks due to lack of sufficient distinctive character and urged Trodat to submit comment on this issue. The applicant did not respond to the letters sent by the PPO, in particular, Trodat did not take any position on the reported lack of sufficient distinctive character.


The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 July 2010 case file II GSK 607/09 held that the burden of proof rests on those who seek for legal consequences from a particular fact for itself (the applicant), it results from a series of obligations incumbent on the applicant, including the obligation to provide explanations, to take an active part in the proceedings and to submit precise requests. These obligations are provided in Articles 145(2) and 152 of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments, in connection with Regulation of the Prime Minister of 8 July 2002 on filing and processing of trademark applications, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 115, item 998 with subsequent amendments.

Article 145
1. Subject to paragraph (2), where the Patent Office finds that the statutory requirements for the grant of a right of protection for a trademark have not been satisfied, it shall make a decision on refusal to grant the right.
2. Before the decision referred to in paragraph (1) is made, the Patent Office shall fix a time limit, within which the applicant is invited to react on the collected evidences and documents which imply the existence of grounds that may cause the right of protection to be denied.
3. Where the statutory requirements are found not to have been satisfied in respect to only certain goods, a right of protection for the trademark in respect of these goods shall be first to be refused by the Patent Office. On the respective decision becoming final the Patent Office shall grant a right of protection for the trademark in respect of the goods, for which it can be granted.

Article 152
The Prime Minister shall, by way of regulation, determine the detailed requirements to be satisfied by a trademark application, the detailed rules and procedure to be applied in the course of examination of trademark applications including, in particular, the extent to which the relevant information may be disclosed to the public after the expiration of the period referred to in Article 143 and the manner in which it is made available, as well as the extent to which the Patent Office is authorised to make corrections in the list of goods and their classification. The requirements to be satisfied by trademark applications may not be determined in such a way as to encumber the applicant with excessive and unreasonable impediments.

The renunciation of the party – despite the invitation issued by the Polish Patent Office – to submit sufficient evidence, explanations, positions may not be of no importance in a situation where the party alleges that the PPO erred in its decision in this particular issue, as a result of breach of the obligation imposed on the PPO to clarify the circumstances of the case in accordance with Article 7 and 77 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 30, item 168, consolidated text of 9 October 2000, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 98, item 1071 with subsequent amendments.

Article 7
Public administration bodies shall uphold the rule of law during proceedings and shall take all necessary steps to clarify the facts of a case and to resolve it, having regard to the public interest and the legitimate interests of members of the public.

Article 77.
§ 1. The public administration body is required to comprehensively collect and examine all evidential material.
§ 2. At each stage of proceedings a body can amend, supplement or withdraw rulings made regarding the examination of evidence.
§ 3. An body conducting proceedings as a result of having been required to do so by the body having jurisdiction to settle the case (Article 52) may, on an ex officio basis or on application by one of the parties, hear new witnesses or experts on circumstances that form the objects of such proceedings.
§ 4. Universally accepted facts and facts known to the body ex officio do not require proof. Parties to proceedings should be informed of facts that are known to the body.

The SAC noted that the provisions of the IPL that provides the possibility to request the applicant by the PPO to submit comments or issue a statement, in fact, serve to define the limits of administrative case, such as defining what is to be examined by the PPO and to what extent this should occur. The PPO is required to make an invitation before taking a decision, therefore, before deciding on the matter. At this stage, it is possible to have the intervention of the parties, if, contrary to the intentions expressed in the request/application, the PPO, for example, does not cover by its activities of all elements of the case, or unreasonably restricts its borders.