Trade mark law, case II GSK 484/12

July 14th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for word trade mark Orlen R-192731 owned by the company ORLEN Spółka z o.o. that was registered for goods in Class 9 and services in Class 42 with the priority of 2002. The request was filed by the big Polish oil company PKN ORLEN S.A. which argued that the questioned sign is similar to its reputed trade mark ORLEN R-125559 that was registered with the priority of 1999. Orlen sp. z o.o. claimed that its company had been registered and has been operating since 1992 under the name “Orlen”, and Orlen S.A. adopted and appropriated that name in 2000. Orlen S.A. called Orlen sp. z o.o. to discontinue use of that name due to getting the right of protection for the earlier trade mark ORLEN. After an exchange of correspondence between the parties, there was no consensus due to divergent expectations, in particular with regard to financial issues. Orlen S.A. proved that there were contacts and negotiations between the parties, subject to the cease of use of the mark ORLEN and argued that the trade mark application was mercantile in nature, becasue the applicant seek only commercial interest and wanted to sell this trade mark. Orlen S.A. submitted copies of correspondence between the parties and photocopies of sale offers. ORLEN Spółka z o.o. filed a complaint against this decision and pointed out that it has offered to sell the company as a whole rather than the trade mark itself.


The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1376/11 dismissed the complaint and ruled that an entrepreneur performing its business activities must be guided by the degree of care that is expected from more than the average person in order to predict the consequences of his or her actions and omissions. The content of the right to the company name within the meaning of the Polish Civil Code is not in fact an absolute and unrestricted right that allows to apply on its behalf for a trade mark that is convergent with this company name, regardless of the rights of third parties. Therefore, the person who uses a given sign and does not register it on his or her own behalf as a trade mark, acts at own risk. An entrepreneur who does not seek to acquire protection for its trade mark cannot rely on the earlier right to its company name, when the other party has obtained a right to a sign identical to the name of the business with an earlier priority and through significant investments earned its reputation. In such a situation, an identical trade mark application made by the entrepreneur who has the right to the company after many years from the commencement of his business, when the other party has made a substantial investment and broad actions leading to the reputation of its trade mark, should be regarded as taking unfair advantage of the reputation of the earlier sign.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 26 June 2013 case file II GSK 484/12 dismissed the cassation complaint.