Archive for: Art. 16(3) TRIPS

Trade mark law, II GSK 578/10

May 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is a sequel to a story described in “Trade mark law, case Sp. 10/08“. In July 2009, the Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark DAKAR R-174205 that was registered for goods in Classes 3, 27, 37, after considering the case on the basis of rich evidence supplied by both parties.

The PPO recognized inter alia the special nature of the opposed trade mark DAKAR IR-606861, that wasregistered for goods in Classes 4, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34 and 41, which in addition to its traditional function of determining the origin of goods, is also the name of the famous rally raid. In explaining its position, the PPO used arguments on a function of a trade mark known as the “merchandising function” and cited D. Keeling, Intellectual Property Rights in EU Law: Free movement and competition law, Oxford, 2003. When examining the circumstances of the case, the PPO concluded that DAKAR IR-606861 trade mark is a reputed one. The PPO pointed to the existing methods for assessing the reputation – the absolute and relative. The first method takes primarily into account the percentage of a certain degree of knowledge of the trade mark on the market (as established by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 August 2007, case file VI SA/Wa 757/07). The relative method, in addition to knowledge of the trade mark, emphasizes other criteria, including market share in terms of quantity and value of goods sold, the scope and length of the advertising of the product marked with the sign, territorial and temporal scope of the use of the trade mark, licenses granted, the quality of the goods, the value of a sign in the assessment of independent financial institutions, the size of the expenditure incurred in connection with the promotion of the trade mark and the relationship to the price of substitute goods. Public opinion polls, prizes and awards, publications, press releases, rankings, reports, invoices and other business records, and various promotional materials can serve as evidence. The PPO cited the judgment of the COJ of 14 September 1999 in C 375/97, General Motors Corporation, the judgment of Supreme Administrative Court of 21 November 2006, case file II GSK 181/06 and the decision of OHIM of 25 April 2001 in case R 283/1999-3. See also “Trade mark law, case II GSK 506/07“.

When referring to the transfrontier nature of the reputation of a trade mark, the PPO found that the Paris-Dakar rally, although it takes place outside the Polish borders, has many fans, as evidenced by the data on viewing TV programs on the rally – from 550000 to over 1200000 people, which according to the PPO, proved a high popularity. The PPO cited the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 8 November 2005 case file VI SA/Wa 845/05 (VALENTINO) and the judgment of VAC of 13 March 2006, case file VI SA/Wa 1626/05 (LEXUS). See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 845/05” and “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1626/05“. When deciding on the unfair advantage, the Polish Patent Office found that in this case, the Polish company will be able to count on the positive reaction of customers without spending too much money on the promotions, because they will buy the goods by associating them with the sign of the French company and consequently with the rally organized by this company.

The Polish company DAKAR from Krasne filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in a jugment of 29 December 2009, case file VI SA/Wa 1938/09, ruled that the word Dakar also means the capital city of Senegal, and such argument escaped PPO’s attention during the analysis of all the facts and evidence gathered. In this aspect this sign also fulfills political and economic role. Therefore, the name of Dakar has long been known as an exotic name of the city and it should not be attributed exclusively to one company. The VAC anulled the Polish Patent Office’s decision and decided that the decision was not subject to execution. Paris Dakar filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 25 May 2011 case file II GSK 578/10 overturned the questioned judgment and sent the case back for reconsideration. The SAC ruled that given the nature of Paris-Dakar business, the PPO properly established the reputation of the trade mark DAKAR IR-606861. The SAC did not agree with the criteria for assessing the reputation of a trade mark that were adopted by the VAC. The Court ruled that the reputation cannot be examined so strictly because organization of sports events is a specific activity and the reputation associated by its trade mark is also conveyed by the media.

Trade mark law, II GSK 298/07

March 19th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2000 the PHU Makroterm K. Wąchała & A. Wąchała applied for the registration of the figurative and word mark MAKROTERM in classes 6, 9, 11 and 42. The Makro Cash and Carry company, who applied for the registration of the figurative and word mark MAKRO in classes 1–45 on 22 March 2000, opposed to the registration. Upon finding the observations groundless, the case was then decided by the Polish Patent Office (PPO).

Makro Cash and Carry claimed that the disputable mark imitated the MAKRO mark, used its renown and infringed the company’s right to a company name. Makroterm in turn said there was no likelihood of confusion since the disputed mark did not use the renown of the MAKRO mark because of the fact that Macro Cash and Carry failed to prove the MAKRO mark had been renowned. The Makroterm representative also said the MAKRO mark had not been universally known.

The PPO overruled MAKRO’s opposition. It decided that in assessing similarity one should not focus solely on one element – the “makro” word. It also said the MAKROTERM mark was one word combining the “makro” and “term” words into an original name that moreover had been put in a colourful design. According to the Office both marks brought about different associations in the minds of the relevant public. It decided that the marks themselves differed and did not examine similarity in goods offered by the companies. The Office also pointed out that the provided advertising materials concerned only the MAKRO CASH AND CARRY mark. With regard to the infringement of the right to a company name it decided the name was a compound one so there could not have been any infringement.

Makro Cash and Carry filed an appeal against the decision of the Polish Patent Office. It read that the Office had not assessed the similarity of goods offered by both companies and with identical goods the criteria for assessing similarity of marks are much stricter. Makro Cash and Carry also said the Polish Patent Office assessed only the differences but it should have assessed similarities.

Makroterm in turn underscored that the universal recognition of the MAKRO sign had not been adequately demonstrated and that the mark had been recognized by a half of the relevant public. It also questioned the research commissioned in 2006 by the MAKRO company.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court (VAC) in Warsaw, in a judgment of 22 March 2007, case file VI SA/Wa 1325/06, rejected the appeal. The Court held that the PPO had already compared the marks with regard to all three planes and decided that the marks bore fundamental differences. It decided that the “makro” word was a common one and had little distinctive value. Apart from that it found the “term” word much more distinctive, which together with colourful design of the MAKROTERM mark made both marks different.

MAKRO filed a cassation appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC). The Supreme Court in the judgment of 15 January 2008, case file II GSK 298/07 fully agreed with the earlier judgement of the Voivodeship Court and the decision of the Polish Patent Office. It also decided there was no similarity between the marks that would lead to a confusion neither on the phonetic, nor conceptual, nor figurative plane. The mark also had not infringed the appellant’s right to the name of his company.