Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 617/11

October 24th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 17 October 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word trade mark Auto-dap R-197829 for Dariusz Chudobiński from Łódź. Andrzej Teodorczyk who owns Auto Serwis Dap, that is located in Pabianice town, filed a notice of opposition.

Mr Teodorczyk claimed that Mr Chudobiński acted in bad faith. He also noted that the sign in question was widely known in Pabianice and it was associated with the automotive garage operated by him under the name “AUTO DAP”. The garage was located in the immediate vicinity of the garage owned by Mr Chudobiński. Mr Teodorczy argued that the DAP company was founded by him in 1984, and its designation is an abbreviation of three names. Mr Teodorczyk pointed out that he had shares in the company AUTO-DAP sp. z o.o., that was also founded by Mr Chudobiński and his wife, however, he never transferred the right to the AUTO DAP sign.

The PPO dismissed the opposition and ruled that the Company AUTO-DAP sp. z o.o. has the property right to its company name, and Mr Chdobiński received a proper authorization to file for a trade mark Auto-dap for his own. The PPO ruled that a short abbreviation DAP, as an abstract term, can not be attributed to specific individuals, as their personal interest due to the order of letters in this expression. These letters can have different meanings for the average customer in perception of this determination. The Patent Office did not agree that Auto-dap trade maw was filed in bad faith. Mr Chudobiński submitted evidence documents that he used the name DAP in his business. Mr Teodorczyk, as one of the founders of the AUTO-DAP company, has agreed (and did not oppose) the use of the company’s name (firm) in this way. He used the same DAP designation in his business activities as an individual and in a company which shares has has sold to the owner of the registered trade mark. Mr Chudobiński filed a trade mark application according to the authorization and undertook the obligation to transfer the disputed trade mark on the company, for each request. It was therefore an application that has been made in good faith – the mark was used by the company for nearly 6 years – and the authorization for its registration by Mr Chudobiński did not violate the provisions of the Articles of Association. Mr Teodorczyk filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 16 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 617/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that Mr Teodorczyk did not prove that Mr Chudobiński wanted to block business activities of Mr Teodorczyk for the reason that he has registered the disputed mark. The VAC noted also that Polish law provides that a right of protection will not be granted for a trade mark in respect of identical or similar goods, if the trade mark is identical or similar to a trade mark which, before the date according to which priority to obtain a right of protection is determined, has been well-known and used as a trade mark in respect of the goods of another party. However, this trade mark has to be well-known on the whole territory of the Republic of Poland or on a substantial part of it. The recognition and knowledge of the trade mark only in less than a significant part of the Polish territory, even if it is intense, does not create the right to a well-known trade mark. Knowledge of the trade mark in one city and its surroundings, even if it’s a large one, is not enough for the sign to be regarded as a well-known trade mark.