Trade mark law, case II GSK 72/11

February 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 25 May 2006, the Polish company AERECO Wentylacja Sp. z o.o. applied for the word-figurative trade mark HIGROSTEROWANIE Z-311192 for goods in Classes 07, 09, 11 and 35. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection, claiming that the applied sign does not have sufficient level of distinctive character. The PPO pointed out this trade mark is built from the core “sterowanie” (in English: controling/steering) and the prefix higro (English: hygro) which indicates a semantic link to the humidity. The sign that is created from these two elements, although not listed in dictionaries, is not a fanciful term and simply means “to regulate humidity”.


AERECO filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 September 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1117/10 dismissed it, and ruled that both in the legal commentaries and the case law of administrative courts, it is considered in particular, that the descriptive sign is one that has the characteristics of the topical, concrete and direct descriptiveness. The topicality of the signs should be assessed on the objective basis and consist of examining whether from the perspective of current market conditions, a sign is useful for description of the goods and if as such it should be accessible to all participants. The rule of concrete descriptiveness states that a sign which indicates the specific characteristics of the product for which the designation is intended may be exempted from the registration as descriptive one. The direct descriptiveness occurs when a descriptive sign informs directly, clearly and unambiguously about the characteristics of a particular goods, so that characteristics may be interpreted directly, and not by associations.

The Court shared the position of the PPO, that the the questioned sign simply means “controling humidity” and thus explicitly indicates the characteristics of the designated goods and can not be appropriated to describe the products or services of one company. The VAC did not find anything fanciful in the figurative element of the HIGROSTEROWANIE trade mark. ARECO filed a cassation complaint but it was dismissed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 February 2012 case file II GSK 72/11.