Trade mark law, case IV CSK 231/10

October 27th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 21 October 2010 case file IV CSK 231/10 held that the combination of colors may serve as a trademark. However, the entrepreneur entitled to the right of protection cannot prohibit the use of one of such colors that is used by another entrepreneur in its trade mark. Judge Wojciech Katner stated that the single color cannot be a trademark.


In this case, the object of protection was a combinations of two colors. The right or protection to the figurative trade mark R-115856 was granted to the BP P.L.C. by the Polish Patent Office based on the provisions of Article 120(2) 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 on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

Article 120
1. Any sign capable of being represented graphically may be considered as trademark, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.
2. The following, in particular, may be considered as trademarks within the meaning of paragraph (1): words, designs, ornaments, combinations of colours, the three-dimensional shape of goods or of their packaging, as well as melodies or other acoustic signals.

The trade mark infringement occurs when the proportions and the use of a given color by another entrepreneur will not allow for distinguishing of trade marks. Sending the case back for reconsideration the Court stated that the judgment of the court of the second instance should be clarified so that the dominance of the green color, would not suggest that this was British Petroleum fuel station. The Court agreed with the defendant that one cannot monopolize the colors, and only some are valuable on the fuels market. The Court held that although different entrepreneurs use the same color to designate their stations, it will not lead to consumers confusion because of the layout, and even a shade of these color. The Court noted that a reputable sign serves not only as the carrier of information about the origin of goods (services). It also provides some important information that may relate to the quality of goods (services), as well as the reputation of the owner of that trade mark or to its activities. Reputed Mark is a sign known, recognizable to a greater extent than usual signs, which does not mean that it must be known widely. Such recognition is provided precisely by these values that the character embodies, so for example, prestige, reputation, uniqueness, high quality. The reputation is not a simple consequence of the distribution of the mark, but it a notion settled in the minds of buyers (customers) about the qualities of goods (services), the prestige of the trade mark or other values.

See also “Trade mark law, case IV CSK 61/09“.