Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 723/11

December 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trademark citibank handlowy R-190720, for the American company Citibank, N.A., a National Banking Association. In 2008, Citigroup Inc. applied for the word trade mark CITI HANDLOWY Z-337716.


The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection, despite the fact that Citibank N.A. is the sole shareholder of the Citigroup Inc., and Citigroup Inc. provided a letter of consent from its parent company. The PPO decided that both signs would mark very similar goods and services and are directed to the same audience. There is also visuall similarity, caused by common elements. The PPO noted that it is not obliged to take into account the letter of consent issued by Citibank, N.A. Citigroup Inc. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 723/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly examined all evidence and properly decided on the similarity of signs. The VAC noted that that letters of consent may be evidence in proceedings, but they do not bind the PPO. The VAC pointed to the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 279/07. The SAC held that a letter of consent cannot be used as ground to register a trade mark since the Republic of Poland did not implement Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104.