Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1203/11

April 24th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

VINEX PRESLAV from Bulgaria requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark MADARA R-97447 owned by Dimyat Polska Sp. z o.o. Earlier, VINEX PRESLAV applied to the PPO to recognise on the territory of the Republic of Poland of the protection for its international trade mark MADARA IR-0929344. In the preliminary refusal sent to the WIPO, the PPO informed that the trade mark MADARA R-97447 is an obstacle to recognise the protection of the trade mark MADARA IR-0929344 on the Polish territory. VINEX argued that the disputed sign has never been used in Poland in relation to the goods covered by the registration, namely goods from Class 33 such as beverages, wine, spirits, brandies and cognacs. Dimyat claimed that it has acquired the right of protection in 1998, but because of “unexplained delay”, the entry in the register of trade marks was made in 2002. The company had to find a licensee, and the PPO by its decision of March 2005, has made an entry of the licensee into the register. However, under the decision of April 2006, the licensee has been removed from the register. The “confusion” around the entry of a licensee undermined Dimyat’s belief and faith whether the company will be able to exercise that right at all. The PPO decided on the lapse of the right of protection.


Dimyat Polska filed a complaint against this decision. The company argued that there existed serious reasons of non-use. Dimyat became a legal successor of the trade mark MADARA R-97447, however this right was obtained after several years of court battles which finally ended in 2002, and the PPO was aware of this legal disputes. Dimyat claimed that the objective circumstances relating to the acquisition of the trade mark (the acquisition of a company in liquidation), objective circumstances preventing the transfer of its right of protection (the court proceedings in order to recognize the acquisition of a trade agreement to be effective), the objective circumstances relating to the license (all the PPO actions that were associated with the deletion of the license agreement and the appeals) significantly prevented Dimyat from the use of the disputed trade mark.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1203/11 reversed the contested decision, ruled it unenforceable, and returned the case to the PPO for reconsideration. The Court held that it is the responsibility of the PPO, to examine the request for the lapse of a trade mark in the light of the existence of valid and serious reasons of non-use, if such an argument is raised by the owner. The Court noted that the Polish Industrial Property Law uses the term “serious reasons” but does not provide explanation of its characteristics, or even a list of examples. The case-law established that these circumstances are all the events and situations, which exclude allegations of blameworthy conduct of the holder of the trade mark registration. These events include primarily those that bear the characteristics of force majeure or other external circumstances impossible to foresee and to prevent them, as well as factual and legal obstacles that are independent from the will of the owner.