On December 2010, the Polish Patent Office refused to grant the righ of protection for the word-figurative trade mark Geo Globe Polska Z-359999 applied for the Polish company GEO GLOBE POLSKA sp. z o.o. sp. k.a. The PPO decided that according to the provisions of Article 131(2)(ii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments, it is not allowed to grant the right of protection for signs which include the name or abbreviation of the Republic of Poland, if the applicant has not shown entitlement, in particular the permission of the competent authority of the State, to use the trade mark with such element.
2. A right of protection shall not be granted for a sign, if:
(ii) it incorporates the name or abbreviated name of the Republic of Poland, or its symbols (emblem, national colours or national anthem), the names or armorial bearings of Polish voivodships, towns or communities, the insignia of the armed forces, paramilitary organisations or police forces, reproductions of Polish decorations, honorary distinctions or medals, military medals or military insignia, or other official or generally used distinctions and medals, in particular those of government administration, local self-administration or social organisations performing activities in vital public interests, where these organisations’ activities extend to the entire territory of the State or to a substantial part thereof, unless the applicant is able to produce evidence of his right, in particular in a form of an authorisation issued by a competent State agency or a permission given by an organisation, to use the sign in the course of trade,
The company argued that the name “Polska” is not mentioned among the above conditions, and that Geo Globe Polska has an established position in international business. The company argued that it has tried to obtain permission from the competent authority, but it did not succeed, which in its opinion indicates that there is no legal basis to issue the relevant permit. The Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland issued statements that the prohibition on use of the name or abbreviation of the Republic of Poland is absolute. Geo Globe Polska filed a complaint against this decision. The company claimed that the PPO should make a literal rather than a broad interpretation of the provisions of IPL. Geo Globe Polska argued that many business entities in Poland are using the term “Polska”.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 22 November 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1749/11 dismissed it. The VAC held that it is obvious that the official name “Rzeczpospolita Polska” (Republic of Poland) includs the element “Polska”. Thus, it can be regarded as an abbreviation of the name of the country. The abbreviation “Rzeczposoplita” has constitutional status, i.e. it is included in the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, and its second element, whether in the Polish language or in translation into other languages, is the distinguishing element of the country’s name, and it’s commonly used at international meetings, competitions, including sports events. Moreover, even the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 March 2005 case file I GSK 1423/04 published in LEX No. 186863, held that the protection is also afforded for the abbreviations in the form of the ISO 3166 standard for country codes, such as ID or PL. In another judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 23 March 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 2184/06, the Court held that the name “Poland” is not sufficiently distinctive. The word “Poland” is the English name of the Republic of Poland, and the Polish Patent Office rightly pointed in this case, that even for people who do not know the Polish language, the term “Poland” will always be associated with the country, and not to a specific entrepreneur. The Court also noted that the provisions of Article 6 ter point 1a) of the Paris Convention and Article 7(1)(h) and (i) of the Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark should be taken into account. The Court ruled that the protection of symbols under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention is absolute and applies to all goods and services. It concerns the symbols of particular public interest.