Trade mark law, case II GSK 258/07

December 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Aveda Corporation from Minneapolis, filed an opposition to avea R-151914 trade mark owned by INTERSILESIA MCBRIDE POLSKA Sp. z o.o. from Strzelce Opolskie registered for goods in Class 03. Aveda Corporation argued that avea trade mark is similar to its earlier AVEDA R-131741 trade mark. The Polish Patent Office has dismissed the opposition arguing that although the cosmetics in class 03 are goods for everyday use, the consumers pay special attention before their purchase, they check the ingredients of these products and are often testing them. Moreover avea trade mark is a word-figurative mark so it is protected as a whole.

Aveda Corporation filed complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court, in its judgment of 23 February 2007, case file VI SA/Wa 2048/06 dismissed the case. The Court held, that there is no risk of misleading the potential consumers although the trade marks AVEA and AVEDA are intended for marking the same goods, namely cosmetic products in class 03. Moreover the Court has agreed with the PPO, that the overall impression that trade mark exerts on the potential consumer is the most important factor. Although both trademarks differ from each other only in one letter, the figurative element in avea trade mark has crucial meaning.

Aveda Corporation filed a cassation complaint against this decision. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 258/07 held, that the Voivodeship Court could have agreed with the Polish Patent Office that the fact that both trade marks consist of the same element “ave” does not have to mislead the potential consumer when the letter “d” in the middle of the trade mark AVEDA this influences different perception of the trade mark. Although it was argued that the overall impression of the word-figurative trade marks in which the dominant element is a word, depends generally on the number of letters and the structure of the word.

The Supreme Administrative Court held, that the average consumer perceives the trade mark as a whole and does not analyze its particular elements. Therefore small differences between the trade marks are not sufficient to exclude the risk of visual similarity, especially when the trademarks have the common structure. In this particular case, it was considered that without analyzing the details of AVEDA and avea trade marks, the average consumer would notice the differences between both trade marks.

In answer to request of the plaintiff to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, stating that currently in force, test of assessment of risk to mislead a consumer and associating of trade marks on the basis on the art. 4 paragraph 1 point b), art. 5 paragraph 1 point 5 of Directive still raise concerns and in consequence there are discrepancies in the judgments of courts and Polish Patent Office, based on the judgments of OHIM, the Supreme Court held, that question formulated in this way did not meet criteria of Article 187 § 1 of Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts, according to which if, during cognisantion of the cassation appeal, there would appear a legal issue, that will raise doubts, the Supreme Administrative Court may postpone the proceedings and introduce this issue to the Composition of seven judges of this Court for deciding.

Regarding the following question of plaintiff to the Court of Justice of European Union i.e. whether increased level of attention of the average consumer can be admitted regarding the goods of common use, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the answer to this question was not of vital importance to this matter, because even lack of higher level of attention of the average purchaser of cosmetics did not affect the assessment that in the subject case, during the assessment of the opposite trade marks there was no risk of misleading the potential consumers.