Trade mark law, case II GSK 269/10

August 5th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polish company Przedsiębiorstwo Produkcji Lodów “KORAL” Józef Koral Spółka jawna from Limanowa, the owner of the word trade mark RED BLUE Z-277694 requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the invalidation of the right of protection for the word trade mark RED BULL IR-708694 in part for goods in Class 30. KORAL claimed inter alia that the registration of the questioned trade mark was made in violation of Article 6(1) of the old Polish Trade Mark Act – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych) of 31 January 1985, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with subsequent amendments, becasue goods in Class 30 are not subject to the activities of the Red Bull GmbH.

(1) A trademark shall be registrable on behalf of a specific enterprise, but only in respect of goods falling within its field of economic activity.

On 15 December 2008, Red Bull informed the PPO that with effect from 5 December 2008, the Company renounced the protection of the questioned trade mark for goods in class 30 on the Polish territory. The PPO dismissed the request and noted that Red Bull GmbH is a limited liability company under the Austrian law. According to the registry of commercial activity, the company uses the Red Bull brand in the course of trade. In the opinion of the PPO, the Austrian law does not require further specification of the scope of the commercial activity of a company. The PPO has indicated that the minimum condition for which the entrepreneur must meet while applying for a trade mark in order to be grated the exclusive rights to that sign, is the intent of use. Such intent may be interpreted from the list of goods and services covered in the application and registration of the trade mark. KORAL filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 26 October 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 1263/09 dismissed the complaint and KORAL filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 April 2011 case file II GSK 269/10 dismissed the cassation. The SAC ruled that the Polish legislature adopted the law which implies that a trade mark may be registered if it’s related to the business activity of an entrepreneur and, therefore, that this is not property in itself, which can belong to anyone, but it is an intangible component of the company/enterprise, that serves to distinguis the goods or services from other goods and services of the same kind of other companies. The second of those conditions preclude the possibility of marking other goods than the goods covered by the activities of a company. There is no doubt that the product (or service) that is actually offered in the market by the company, is a commodity, which is the subject of its business. However, a trade mark can (and should) also be used for goods that are not currently offered. Therefore, some problems of interpretation arise in the case of these goods (and services) that can be marketed by the company in the future. The SAC noted that the case law and legal doctrine adopted the view, that commodities which are the subject of a business activity will also be goods or services, what a company intends to introduce to the market in the future. Thus, the need arose to determine the criteria that would allow for the identification of the types of goods that are covered at the time of filing of a trade mark application (and consequently by the registration) by the intention of marking them in the future by that trade mark. Such intention is disclosed by identifying of the company activities in the appropriate register, because it is a public declaration of the entrepreneur on which fields of economic activities it intends to participate, or what kind of goods or services it will be offering on the market.