Trade mark law, case XVI GCo 204/13

September 30th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

On Augut 2013, Polish telecom Polkomtel sp. z o.o. started an advertising campaign of its mobile Internet access services. In a short movie, a girl named Basia is starting new life by dumping her boyfriend and moving to a new flat with an Internet access based on LTE technology. She mentions that her boyfriend had Internet access provided by Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. under the brand name Neostrada. She is very happy about the changes. The ad ends with the statement that Internet provided by Plus (brand name of Polkomtel) is faster from Neostrada. This comparison is based on the ranking provided by of July 2013.

On 9 September 2013, Telekomunikacja Polska requested the District Court in Warsaw to issue a preliminary injuntion against Polkomtel, in order to prohibit acts of unfair competition and trade mark infringement of the word trade mark NEOSTRADA R-182762. Telekomunikacja noted that Polkomtel is one its major competitors on the Polish telecommunication market. The Company argued that Polkomtel infringed its trade mark rights by taking unfair advantage of reputation and distinctive character of the NEOSTRADA brand, and the advertising movie was comparative advertising contrary to good practices, and as such, should be deemed as unfair competition.

The District Court in Warsaw in its order of 23 September 2013 case file XVI GCo 204/13 dismissed the request. The Court held that premises to secure the claims are based on substantiation of claims, i.e. on providing prima facie evidence of the infringement and legitimate interest in granting the order. According to the Court, Telekomunikacja did not provide evidence on reputation of its trade mark and Polkomtel did not infringe the right of protection for NEOSTRADA, because this sign was only used to specify the service to which it relates. The word was used as a name for a given service, not as a trade mark. The Court noted that advertising that allows to identify, directly or indirectly, the competitor or products or services offered by the competitor, described as “comparative advertising”, should be deemed the act of unfair competition if it is contrary to good practices. However, the short movie clip published by Polkomtel is not in any way contrary to such practices, because it is not misleading and it does not affect market decisions as to the purchase of goods or services. The Court agreed with the decision of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection of 6 August 2009 case no. DDK 4/2009, according to which, advertising is deemed as misleading when a consumer gets false idea of ​​the goods or services, and misleading information influence the decision to purchase these products.

See also “Trade mark law, case XXII GWo 68/12“.