Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 396/11

November 8th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

EAST SEA POLAND Spółka z o.o. filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark BIEN DÔNG R-204010 registered for services in Classes 36, 39 and 43, and owned by AEROCENTER TRAVEL Trinh Huy Ha.


EAST SEA claimed that this mark is descriptive, because in the translation from Vietnamese to Polish language, it is the name of the South China Sea – Biển Đông. This name is the official designation of the geographic area used in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and as such it should remain free to use on the market. The company argued that this trade mark may lead to consumers’ confusion, in particular those of Vietnamese nationality, as to the nature or characteristics of services provided by the owner, because the sign in its content relates to the maritime area, which is associated with maritime transport, and not to the services that it was registered for. EAST SEA argued that the Bien Dong designation may be misleading as to the place where services are provided, as the owner provides its services in Poland and not in Vietnam. It is worth mentioning that EAST SEA applied for three trade marks that include BIEN DONG words.


AEROCENTER TRAVEL argued that the Bien Dong is strictly abstract expression for the average Pole who doesn’t know what it means in Vietnamese. The Company disagreed, that this is false or fraudulently marked geographical origin of their services, since none of the customers going to the office in Warsaw would expect it to be in Vietnam at the South China Sea.

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition and EAST SEA POLAND decided to file a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 396/11 dismissed it and held that the Polish Industrial Property Law – in principle – does not preclude the registration in Poland as a national trade mark, the word that is taken from the language of another country in which language this word is devoid of distinctive character or it is descriptive for the goods or services for which the registration was sought, unless recipients/consumers in the State in which registration is sought, would be able to read the meaning of this word.