Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 86/11

May 10th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request for the invalidation of the word trade mark Laurina R-186513 registered in Class 31 for goods such as seeds of dwarf yellow pod common bean, fresh dwarf bean, yellow pod bean. The applicant filed a complaint against this decision.

The applicant argued that the mark does not have sufficient distinctive characteristic because it is the name of common bean varieties that was entered into the national registry in Poland. The names of plant varieties are used to distinguish plant, and not their origin from specific growers or producers. The more important argument was that new names of plant varieties can be protected for cultivators only under the provisions of the Act on the Legal Protection of Plant Varieties -LPPV – (in Polish: ustawa o ochronie prawnej odmian roĊ›lin) of 26 June 2003, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 137 item. 1300 with subsequent amendments. The present variety is not subject to such protection and seeds marked with Laurina are marketed by many manufacturers, and following all the procedures provided for in the LPPV.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 April 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 86/11 annulled the contested decision and held it unenforceable. The Court ruled that the distinctiveness of word trade marks should be assessed primarily in relation to specific goods that will be bearing such a sign. Informational or descriptive nature of a sign is a feature that demonstrates a lack of concrete, not abstract distinctiveness of a trade mark. The assessment should be made also in relation to the so-called “ordinary course of business/trade”, taking into account the views of the criterion of the average consumer.