Archive for: February, 2014

Procedural law, case II GSK 248/14

February 26th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

On August 2011, the Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for a trade mark owned by a Polish entity. On 12 September 2012, the Austrian company and the Polish business filed a complaint against the decision of the PPO. The Austrian entrepreneur claimed that it is a legal successor in the case of the invalidated trade mark. As evidence, the company provided an agreement of transfer of trade mark rights.

In a letter of 6 November 2012, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw called on the applicant, represented by the patent attorney, to submit a document setting out the authority to represent the applicant, i.e. the original or certified copy of an extract from the official register of companies, which would prove that a person who signed the PoA was a persons properly authorized to represent the applicant on the day of granting the power of attorney that has been attached to the complaint, together with a sworn translation into Polish, within thirty days under pain of dismissal of the action. The letter was delivered to the patent attorney on 12 November 2012. On 12 December 2012, the Court received a request for an extension of the deadline for filing the requested documents. The applicant argued that the person responsible in the applicant’s company for providing such documents was on leave in November 2012, and later, the document was sent by mail, however, it has not been delivered on time.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its order of 31 January 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 rejected the complaint due to the failure to comply with the Court’s request of 6 November 2012. The Court noted that the deadline to correct formal deficiencies of a complaint is a statutory deadline. Statutory deadlines that are set for parties and participants in the proceedings cannot be extended or shortened. In addition, the VAC cited the order of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2006 case file I FSK 29/06, and noted that the applicant, while deciding to start its business in Poland, should properly protect its interests, by preparing documents that would authenticate PoAs granted to persons who represent the company, among others, in administrative proceedings. The Court also noted that 80 days have passed from the date of delivery of the letter to the attorney of the Austrian company, but the requested documents were not received by the Court.

In the letter of 20 March 2013, both applicants filed a request to restore the deadline in order to supplement formal deficiencies of the complaint. The request was based on the fact that the person authorized to issue and deliver of the document was long absent, and finally in December 2012, a copy of this document in German, was sent by mail. The whole delay was caused by the Christmas holidays, abroad stay, and his illness in January 2013. The application had attached a copy of the scanned document in German that was received via e-mail.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order of 25 July 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 refused to restore the deadline and ruled that the action in the administrative proceedings that was taken by the party after the expired deadline is deemed as ineffective, while, in the case where a party has failed to act without its fault, the court decides on the request to restore the deadline. The request should be submitted to the court in which the action was to be made ​​within seven days from the time of cessation of the cause of failure to comply with the deadline. The requesting party must substantiate circumstances indicating a lack of its fault in complying with the established deadline. The criterion of lack of fault, which is a prerequisite for the validity of the request to restore the deadline is based on the party’s fulfillment of an obligation to act in special care when making a procedural step. Both legal comentators and the case law of the Supreme Administrative Court states, that in assessing the occurrence of this evidence, the court should adopt an “objective measure of care” which may be required of each party who duly cares about their interests. The lack of fault can only be proved when the party could not remove the obstacle even with the greatest effort. The Court decided that the circumstances indicated by the applicant did not exclude the possibility to meet the deadline in order to fulfill formal deficiencies of the complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 19 February 2014 case file II GSK 248/14 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by both companies.

Abusive clauses in B2C IT contracts, decision no. RKT-38/2013

February 24th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

According to the provisions of Article 7 of the Act on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Liability for Damage Caused by a Dangerous Product – PRCLL – (in Polish: o ochronie niektórych praw konsumentów oraz o odpowiedzialności za szkodę wyrządzoną przez produkt niebezpieczny) of 2 March 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw), No 22, item 271 with subsequent amendments, the consumer who concluded the so-called “distance contract” may withdraw from it without giving reasons, by way of an appropriate written statement, within the period of ten days from the conclusion of the contract. The “distance contract” or contracts concluded at a distance are defined as contracts concluded without simultaneous presence of both parties, in which one party is deemed as a consumer (a natural person not performing any business activities), by way of a use of means of communication at a distance, in particular order form without the address or addressed, serial letter, press advertising with a printed order form, catalogue, telephone, radio, television, automatic calling machine, videophone, videotext, electronic mail, facsimile machine, provided that the party to the contract with the consumer is the entrepreneur who organised in such a way its business activity.

The Polish Company Decoratum, owner of endo.pl website that sells children clothes, provided the TOS according to which a consumer willing to withdraw from a purchase, has had to return the purchased goods in order to make the withdrawal legally effective. However, such provisions are inconsistent with the PRCLL. The Act does not require the consumer to perform any additional actions, except filing a written statement (declaration of will to withdraw from a contract). The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection initiated proceedings against Decorum and found that the company did not provided its consumers proper written information that they have the right to return purchased products. The President in its decision of 21 November 2013 no. RKT-38/2013 ordered the Company to pay a fine in the amount of 15.084 PLN. The entrepreneur abandoned the use of the challenged practices so it was possible to decrease the financial penalty. The decision is final.

See also “Polish regulations on prohibited contractual provisions” and “Polish case law on abusive clauses in B2C IT and IP contracts“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1542/12

February 17th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

On August 2008, The Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark TEFLEX Q R-211213 for goods in Class 9 such as optical apparatus and instruments, spectacle frames, sunglasses, eyeglasses, articles for the manufacture of spectacles, spectacle cases, chains for spectacles, sports eyeglasses, optical lenses, optical glasses, optical products, and services in Class 44 such as optical services, medical assistance, medical clinics, for the Polish company Krasnodębski i S-ka OPTIBLOK Spółka Jawna.

R-211213

Eschenbach Optik GmbH filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. The German company argued that the trade mark TEFLEX Q is similar to its CTM t-flex no. 001821651 that was registered for goods in Class 9 such as spectacles and spectacle frames. Moreover, it pointed out that the questioned trade mark has been applied for registration in bad faith, and its registration and use may lead to the infringement of the applicant’s property rights and the unfounded use of the reputation of the t-flex designation. The fact that the registered sign is confusingly similar and resembles t-flex brand for the same narrow class of products was an argument for the bad faith. Such action indicated the intention to use consumers’ knowledge of products bearing t-flex sign. The brand t-flex is a fanciful designation and it was extremely unlikely for the OPTIBLOK to apply for registration of the sign that was very similar. It was merely a coincidence. The German company noted that it conducts its business in more than 80 countries, including Poland. From the beginning, the Company manufactured and sold of glasses and optical devices, and TITANflex technology is one of the most important of its products. The Polish company is a competitor on the local market. The registration and use of the trade mark TEFLEX Q infringes the Community trade mark t-flex and violates the property rights of Eschenbach Optik GmbH. The existence of similar signs can result in negative consequences for clients and lead them to confusion with regard to the origin of goods. The infringement of the reputation of the t-flex sign was based on its dilution. While referring to the similarity of the goods, the German company noted that the services of class 44 are complementary to the goods in Class 9.

CTM no. 001821651

The Polish company argued that it did not act in bad faith, because before filing the trade mark application, it used services of a patent and trade mark attorney and therefore acted negligently. At the time of registration there was no identical or similar signs to TEFLEX Q mark. Additionally, the brand t-flex does not have distinctive character, because there are tens of thousands of products with the same name in the world.

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark TEFLEX Q R- 211213 because, it found that the characters are very similar. However, PPO did not agree with the argument that the application was made ​in bad faith. According to settled case-law and legal commentators, the mere fact that one party applies for a trade mark similar to a sign used by the other party is not deemed as acting in bad faith. The bad faith must be proved based on other factors than knowledge of market presence of similar brands and signs, such factors include for instance dishonesty in relation to the interests of another entrepreneur. The reputation of the trade mark t-flex was also not proved. The mere statement that the German company had its Polish subsidiary was not sufficient to prove that Eschenbach Optik GmbH was present on the Polish market before the questioned trade mark was applied.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 February 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1885/11 dismissed it and ruled that the PPO referred precisely and in detail to all facts and evidence of the case. OPTIBLOK filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 January 2014 case file II GSK 1542/12 dismissed it.