Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1056/10

January 18th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

This case concerned the opposition proceedings against the decision on grant of the right of protection for NATURTEA R-191045 trade mark, owned by the Polish company ZAS-POL Sp. z o.o., and registered for goods in Class 30 such as tea, fruit teas, black, green, red, flavored tea. The opponent argued that NATURTEA is not sufficiently distinctive, because it is a descriptive term that indicates only the type of product – tea. The Polish Patent Office dismissed the case and ruled that such a trade mark, as a combination of two words is a fanciful sign and does not indicate characteristics of the marked goods. The opponent decided to file a complaint against this decision. According to ZAS-POL, the law firm that was the applicant in this case, had no legal interest (locus standi) in the invalidation of the right protection.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 30 September 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1056/10 annulled the questioned decision and set the case back for reconsideration. The Court ruled that the PPO completely ignored evidence submitted by the opponent as to the existence of the term “natural tea” in the market, and in fact, the PPO relied solely on the arguments provided by the trade mark owner. It was an example of violation of the principle that requires the public administration body to comprehensively collect and examine all evidential material.

The VAC reminded also that legal interest is not required to be proven only in case of oppositions filed according to Article 246 of the Polish Industry Property Law, where any person may give reasoned notice of opposition to a final decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a patent, a right of protection or a right in registration, but only within six months from the publication in “Wiadomości Urzędu Patentowego” (the official journal of the Polish Patent Office) of the mention of the grant of a title of protection, and justifying at the same time the existence of the circumstances causing the invalidation of such right. The Court noted that it is the only example of the so-called actio popularis – a legal remedy that was introduced to the Polish Industrial Property Law because of the importance of public interest. This action is available to any person with the capacity to be a party in the administrative proceedings, even if such person is not directly interested in the matter. This judgment is not final yet.