Archive for: competition law

Consumer protection, case XVII Ama 118/04

March 24th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Competition and Consumer Protection in its judgment of 23 February 2006 case file XVII Ama 118/04 published in the Official Journal of President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection of 2006/2 p. 37, held that respect for others is considered as the essence of the concept of good customs in contractual relationships between business and consumers. Such respect should be expressed in proper information how the consumer could exercise its rights. The professionals and entrepreneurs should not to use their privileged position, and they should deal with the consumer as a partner in every agreement. Misinformation, confusion, misconception and the use of consumers’ ignorance or naivete were deemed contrary to good customs.

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

Collective interests of consumers, case XVII Ama 125/08

November 26th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

A person who bought CHIO CHIPS produced by the Lorenz Bahlsen Snack-World, filed a complaint to the representation of the Office of Competition and Consumers Protection in Wrocław. This dissatisfied consumer argued that being in the store, he chose CHIO chips and not the other products that were sold in a similar price, because he was attracted by a draw where he could win some nice prizes. However, he became disappointed because when he did open the package and read the coupon, it turned out that the draw was already over. The date of the draw was shown on the inside part of a special bar attached to chips’ bag, but it could be difficult to read after the break of the package. Because of the lack of a clear declaration with regard to the end date of the draw, the Company was fined 22000 PLN for the practice of contravention of collective interests of consumers. According to the Polish Act on Protection of Competition and Consumers – APCC – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie konkurencji i konsumentów) 16 February 2007 published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 50, item 331, with subsequent amendments, it was a violation of the obligation to provide consumers with reliable, true and complete information regarding the product.

The Polish Court of Competition and Consumer Protection upheld the contested decision in its judgment, case file XVII Ama 125/08. Such essential information as the period of promotion/draw or the validity date of the product cannot be hidden inside the bar of the package and thus not visible at first glance. Such information must be readily available. The Court ruled that the date of a draw should be indicated clearly on the product packaging and incomplete information is misleading. The judgment is not final yet, the company may file an appeal.

Trade mark law, case I ACa 16/10

October 8th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The French company Marin’s International brought a case before the Court for the Community Trade Marks and Community Designs, located in Warsaw (in Polish: Sąd Okręgowy w Warszawie Wydział XXII Sąd Wspólnotowych Znaków Towarowych i Wzorów Przemysłowych). The issue concerned the use of CTMs Marin’s and Lama by the Polish company Display Flash Poland sp. z o.o., within its website in NOSCRIPT tag. The Court in its judgment of 25 September 2009 case file XXII GWzt 8/09, ruled that the use of someone else’s trademark in website’s metatags infringes trade mark rights of such person, and such behaviour may be also deemed as an unfair competition delict. This is way more interesting if one realizes that almost month ago Google has announced that it doesn’t use the “keywords” meta tag in web search ranking. Display Flash Poland filed an appeal complaint.

The Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 July 2010 case file I ACa 16/10 dismissed it. The Court held that using as a keyword a word identical or similar to registered trade marks on the Internet does constitute infringement of the right of protection provided that the said act was committed without the consent of the holder and, in addition to the foregoing, the average Internet user experiences difficulty in determining whether the goods or services designated or found on the basis of a keyword are in fact assigned to the trade mark proprietor or a company commercially affiliated to it.

Polish regulations on unfair commercial practices

December 30th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Act of 23 August 2007 on Combating Unfair Commercial Practices – CUCP – (in Polish: ustawa o przeciwdziałaniu nieuczciwym praktykom rynkowym) published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 171, item 1206, came into force on 21 December 2007. It implemented the Directive 2005/29 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450, Directives 97/7, 98/27 and 2002/65 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (“Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”).

Among others things, it defines in article 5(1) misleading commercial practices as actions connected with introduction of products into the market which may lead to mistake as regards to products, its packaging, trade marks, trade names or other signs capable of identifying entrepreneurs, particularly comparative advertising.

The Act also deals with crypto-advertising which is defined as using commentary content in mass-media sources to promote a product where the business/entrepreneur paid for such action but it is not clearly indicated in the content, images or sounds and it is not easily identified by the consumer.

The Act also covers aggressive commercial practices. It defines such actions as (i) onerous processes which are not connected with consumers’ actions or (ii) desisting from acting, i.e. inducing the purchase of products via phone, fax, electronic mail or other means used to communicate in distance.

See also “Polish regulations on prohibited contractual provisions“.

Unfair competition, case V CSK 237/06

June 22nd, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

Hortex Holding SA Company (Hortex) filed a suit against Hortino, seeking (i) a preliminary injunction to prohibit Hortino labelling its products with its trade mark, (ii) an order that Hortino publish an apology in the press, and (iii) the return of unjustified and undeserved profits gained through the trade mark infringement.

The legal dispute between Hortex and Hortino spanned two different jurisdictions. Trade mark invalidation suits are based on the administrative procedure and this case was reported in my post entitled “Trade mark law, case II GSK 63/05“.

While the administrative procedure was running its course, Hortex commenced civil proceedings against Hortino. Its petition included a claim for trade mark infringement under articles 19 and 20 of the old Polish Trade Mark Act – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych) of 31 January 1985, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with later amendments, repealed on 22 August 2001 by the Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, 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 later amendments, and breach of article 10 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with later amendments.

Article 10
(1) Such indication of products or services or its lack, which may mislead customers in relation to the origin, quantity, quality, components, manufacturing process, usefulness, possible application, repair, maintenance and another significant features of products or services as well as concealing the risks connected with their use, shall be the act of unfair competition.
(2) Releasing for free circulation products in the packing which may cause effects referred to in section 1 above shall be the act of unfair competition, unless the use of such packing is justified by technical reasons

Hortex asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction against Hortino and to order Hortino to publish a specified apology in the press. Hortex also asked the court to order the reimbursement of unfounded and undeserved profits gained by means of its trade mark infringement. The Court of the First Instance acknowledged the first two claims in its judgment but did not issue any order regarding the monetary award because, in its opinion, Hortex had not proved sufficiently that any of Hortino’s profits had been obtained through the use of its similar trade mark. Both parties appealed.

The appellate court varied the judgment in so far as it affected monetary damages and ordered Hortino to pay 304,000 zloty. The court based its calculations on a test of a fictional licence fee. Hortino then filed a cassation complaint before the Supreme Court, insisting that the judgment was decided in contravention of the CUC and the TMA, some procedural regulations, and even international treaties. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 10 August 2006, case file V CSK 237/06, dismissed the petition and upheld the contested judgment. Judge Tadeusz Zyznowski pointed that all courts, including the Supreme Administrative Court, had reached their decisions in a proper manner. Hortino’s actions were clearly made in bad faith and could lead many consumers to confusion about the origin of labelled and sold products.

The method of establishing the quantum of profits gained by the trade mark infringer is based on the Court of Second Instance’s findings. That court ruled that the measure should be a fictional and hypothetical licence agreement’s fee that would be owed to the trade mark holder if the disputing parties were to have signed a trade mark licence agreement. In the civil proceedings, the appellate court set the fee level at 3 per cent of all profits gained by Hortino when it was selling goods bearing the disputed trade mark.

The Republic of Poland is one of many European countries that, in the course of its legal history, adopted the civil law system. From the point of view of common law lawyers, it simply means that Polish courts do not follow their opinions and judgments. There are no legally binding precedents except for the Supreme Court’s legal rulings. Nonetheless, after the Supreme Court’s final judgment in the issue described above, based on the cassation procedure, one may be sure that all inferior courts will be eager to employ the methods stipulated in this instance.