Personal interest, case IX GC 367/11

February 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The company Polska Wódka (in English: Polish Vodka) from Warsaw sued two other companies Wódka Polska sp. z o. o. and Wódka Polska sp. komandytowa from Lublin (both companies are lined with Stock Spirits, former Polmos Lublin) for the infringement of the company name based on the regulations included in the Polish Civil Code that provides that the company name of the entrepreneur should differ sufficiently from the company names of other entrepreneurs that carry on their activities on the same market. The company name may not be misleading, in particular as regards the entrepreneur’s person, the object of their activity, place of activity and supply sources, and the Polish Act on Combating Unfair Competition which treats the use of the designation of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, based on the use of trade mark, name, emblem, letter abbreviation or another characteristic symbol already lawfully used to indicate another undertaking, as the act of unfair competition.

Polska Wódka claimed that it has the priority to its company name based on the entry in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS). The name of Warsaw’s company was entered in 2003, and the company names of Lublin’s entities were entered accordingly in 2005 and 2009. Polska Wódka argued that both sued companies act intentionally in order to mislead other market participants.

Both defendants did not agree with the suit and argued that they obtained the right to use their company names under final and binging decisions of the registration court, and noted that Polska Wódka does not proved that it performs any business activity under its company name because there are no annual reports in the KRS that would serve as proof of use.

The District Court in Lublin in its judgment case file IX GC 367/11 dismissed the suit as unfounded. The Court agreed that the company from Warsaw was the first one to start the use of the questioned name, however, it did not provided any evidence of its use in order to prove the confusion of other market participants. The Court also ruled that the protection if afforded to designation that are put in genuine use, not to these that were only registered in the KRS. Finally, the Court noted that the name Polska wódka (Polish vodka) is descriptive term related to a product name that is connected with a specific business activity, and it cannot be appropriated by single company. The Court ruled that Polish vodka is a designation that should be in the public domain, in order to be available for different entities which wish to use such name for their products. The judgment is not final yet.