A Polish lawyer who felt insulted by the comments that appeared on znanyprawnik.eu website, sued its owner. The case went through all instances. The Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 18 January 2013 case file IV CSK 270/12 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by the offended lawyer. The Court held that all comments were not about facts that could be verified, only described the experience of cooperation with a lawyer and did not contain offensive or vulgar expressions. The plaintiff is an attorney, a public person performing certain services in the field of law and his services should be subject to assessment, which is not always favorable. Due to the nature of the activities carried out by the plaintiff, the limits of acceptable criticism are wider, because the person undertaking public activities does it voluntary, yet inevitable, undergo evaluation and public reaction.
Archive for: personal rights or interests
The “Nigdy Więcej” (Never Again) Association and the “Zielone Światło” (Green Light) Foundation organized a social action entitled “Nazism never again on Allegro”. It was a protest against a Polish auction website Allegro.pl which allowed to buy and sell different Nazi gadgets and memorabilia. The Foundation together with a writer, artist and social activist Jerzy Masłowski prepared an illustration with Allegro.pl logotype in which in which two L letters were changed and shaped as the SS symbol. This illustration was used on postcards that were handed out to different people during the street-action that happened near Metro Świętokrzyska in Warsaw on 21 March 2010.
On 20 April 2010, the Foundation received a cease and desist letter from QXL Poland – the owner of Allegro. The Company requested the removal from all public places of all publications, photographs, posters and billboards, and other materials that included the altered trade mark. QXL demanded destruction of all the above mentioned materials and asked the Foundation to publish an apology on its website, as well as in the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. The Foundation refused to comply.
QXL Poland sued the “Zielone Światło” foundation and Jerzy Masłowski for the infringement of personal rights. During the trial, the Foundation argued that it has conducted correspondence with Allego with regard to products with fascist symbols or products referring to fascist ideology, that were offered at different auctions. However, it has not brought the intended effect, because Allegro.pl did not remove these items from its website. For this reason, the Foundation organized the street action. The Foundation argued that from 8 June 2010, the provisions of Article 256 of the Criminal Code were amended.
§ 1. Whoever publicly promotes a fascist or other totalitarian system of state or incites hatred based on national, ethnic, race or religious differences or for reason of lack of any religious denomination
shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.
§ 22 The same punishment shall be imposed on anyone, who for the purpose of dissemination, produces, records or import, acquire, stores, possess, presents, transports or transfers a print, record or other item of the content specified in § 1 or being a carrier of the fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism..
§ 3 A crime is not committed by a perpetrator of a forbidden act specified in § 2, if he or she commits the said act in the course of artistic, educational, collectible or scientific activity.
The Foundation concluded that its action was a response to long-term omission of Allegro. The action was organized to draw the attention of relevant authorities and the public at auctions that poses a danger to others. It sought to protect an important public interest, and therefore was not unlawful. In addition, the Foundation argued that according to the legal doctrine the criticism aimed at improving the reality is not illegal, even if it is excessively expressive in description and in negative assessment, as well as it’s impolite way of expression and presentation of arguments, if it is justified by the importance of issues raised and the literary form that was used. Moreover, the scope of permissible criticism depends on the weight of social affairs, and in case of doubt, freedom of expression takes precedence, and in some cases even offensive criticism is acceptable. If the case requires so, the criticism might be very offensive, and it may even seek to destroy the enemy, for example, in the dispute against pedophilia or against the view that is glorifying Stalin. The Foundation argued also that a request for legal protection raised by Allegro cannot ban the Foundation and other individuals from expressing their critical opinions of the plaintiff’s conduct. Such behavior constitutes an abuse of the subjective right as decided by the Appeallate Court in Lódź in its judgment of 25 May 2006 case file I ACa 15/06, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 512493.
On 9 November 20011, a lawyer representing the Foundation presented a legal opinion issued by Prof. Wojciech Sadurski. Prof. Sadurski wrote that there was no violation of personal interests. In the opinion of the author, the case brought by QXL Poland illustrates the conflict between two types of claims related to absolute rights protected by the law. The claims relating to freedom of expression, and intellectual property claims relating to the protection of trade marks owned by QXL Poland. Citing the case law of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, prof. Sadurski argued that freedom of speech is superior to other constitutional rights and freedoms. He noted that limiting the right to freedom of expression by issuing a ban on speech, would violate the essence of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Prof. Sadurski cited Smith v Wal-Mart Stores, 537 F.Supp.2d 1302 (ND GA 2008), however he pointed out that the Foundation does not conduct any commercial activity, and the risk of consumers’ confusions is clearly excluded. Please bear in mind that such opinions are treated by the Courts as private documents, not as the expert witness evidence/testimony. The case is pending and the next hearing is scheduled on 6 February 2012.
QXL Poland filed also a request for preliminary injunction. The District Court in Warsaw in its order of 20 January 2011 case file XXIV C 1035/10 dismissed it during a closed-door court session (in camera). However, the Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its decision of 5 May 2011 case file I ACz 671/11 decided to secure the claim of QXL. The Court prohibited the Foundation and Jerzy Masłowski from transmitting and disseminating on their websites of any publications or materials containing the questioned trade mark.
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 March 2013 case file XXIV C 1035/10 ruled that the “Zielone Światło” (Green Light) Foundation infringed personal rights of Allegro, such as reputation and fame. The Court decided that the demonstrations against the sale of Nazi memorabilia and interference with the logo of the portal were too excessive and bore the risk of linking the portal with Nazi organizations. The judgment is not final.
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.
On 27 February 2009, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark PARADA R-215899 applied for the goods in Class 18 such as leather and imitations of leather, and goods made of these materials and goods in Class 25 such as clothing made of natural and synthetic materials, leather garments, footwear, headgear, by the Polish company HenMar sp. z o. o. from Dębica.
PRADA S.A. from Luxembourg filed a notice of opposition. The company argued that the trade mark PARADA is confusingly similar to its word-figurative trade mark PRADA IR-650695 registered in Poland with the earlier priority of 1995, for goods in Class 18 and Class 25.
The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its decision of 12 October 2012 case no. Sp. 30/11 ruled that PARADA and PRADA are not similar. In the opinion of the PPO, although compared signs are composed of similar letters, however, the deciding factor was the conceptual aspect of both trade marks. In Polish, the word “parada” has a specific meaning and means, among others, spectacular show with the participation of many people (parade). The PPO decided that the semantic aspect proves that both signs will be perceived differently and there is no risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods. Further allegations, based on the reputation of PRADA trade mark, have become, therefore, irrelevant. The decision is not final yet. The complaint may be filed before the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.
The European Commission filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark euro SKLEP R-180808 that was applied for by the Polish company Euro Sklep S.A. from Bielsko Biała. The EC said that the trade mark contains an imitation of the European Union flag because it has five distinctive yellow stars (mullets) arranged in an arc (part of a circle) on a blue background – which obviously violates the official symbol of the European Union. Euro Sklep argued that the opposition is unfounded, because the argument that the trade mark is an imitation symbol is an obvious abuse of the law by the EC, since the examination of signs is to be assessed as a whole, and not by attributing the illusory similarities. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. According to the PPO, the average consumer who sees the mark with prominent yellow sign EURO accompanied by five-pointed stars in a semi-circle, will associate it with the flag of the European Union. The PPO pointed out that the use of the EURO caption, as well as graphic elements in the form of a bird or incomplete number of stars, does not rule out the conceptual similarity, since use of the word euro as the dominant element of the mark may exacerbate the association of the recipient that he has to deal with an institution agenda of the European Union. Euro Sklep filed a complaint against this decision and noted that in this case the PPO was not dealing with registration of the flag of the European Communities/European Union as a trade mark, but at most, it would be its imitation from a heraldic point of view. However, the PPO did not properly explain this issue. The Company noted that the imitation prohibited under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention is narrower in scope than an imitation, which normally is considered to be unacceptable between the trade marks. According to Euro Sklep, this view is particularly justified because very often the National flags and emblems contain items commonly used, in particular those relating to flora and fauna, such as lions, bears, flowers, etc., which must remain in public domain for free use.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1036/10 dismissed the complaint and ruled that the fact of using only half of the symbol did not matter from a heraldic point of view, because the PPO was still dealing with the emblem (flag) of the European Union. Euro Sklep S.A. filed a cassation complaint. The Company argued that the presence of the words on the flag is the negation of the principles of heraldry, and itself refutes allegation of heraldic imitation. Euro Sklep pointed out to couple of CTMs registered by the OHIM that share the same symbols of of yellow stars on blue background.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 September 2012 case file II GSK 1156/11 dismissed the cassation and ruled that the provisions of Paris Convention and Polish Industrial Property Law were introduced to protect National emblems and symbols against dilution.
The Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) in its decision of 24 September 2010, no. DIS/DEC-1134/38146/10 ordered the Polish company Info Veriti Polska Sp. z o.o. Obsługa Serwisu Internetowego Sp.J., the publisher of online database of Polish entrepreneurs, to inform the individuals whose data that were publicly available in sources such as Court’s Monitor and Economic Monitor and which have been collected and preserved by the Company, according to the information requirement referred to in Article 25(1) of the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments, within 3 months from the date on which this decision becomes final.
1. In case where the data have not been obtained from the data subject, the controller is obliged to provide the data subject, immediately after the recording of his/her personal data, with the following information:
1) the address of its seat and its full name, and in case the controller is a natural person about the address of his/her residence and his/her full name,
2) the purpose and the scope of data collection, and in particular, about the data recipients or categories of recipients,
3) the source of data,
4) the existence of the data subject’s right of access to his/her data and the right to rectify these data,
5) the powers resulting from Article 32 paragraph 1 point 7 and 8.
Furthermore, the GIODO ordered the Company to register the collection of personal data of customers (owners of e-mail addresses) within 30 days from the date on which the decision becomes final, to allow users of infoveriti.pl website to freely consent to the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes within 30 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, to create documentation establishing security policy and the intruction for management of IT system that used to process personal data, within 30 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, to grant the authorization to the processing of personal data to persons who are allowed to process personal data within 14 days from the date on which this decision becomes final, and to create a record of persons authorized to process personal data within 14 days from the date on which this decision becomes final. Info Veriti argued that the provisions of Article 25(1) of the PPO should not apply in its case because the provision of other law provides and allows for personal data collection without the need to notify the data subject. Such allowance happens in the case of laws that introduced a formal disclosure of public registers, that include records containing personal information. The formal disclosure of a registry means the right of everyone to access data in the register, without the need to show the legal or factual interest. Due to the widespread legitimacy in terms of access to recorded data, a person obtaining information from the register is not in any way identified during data acquisition. The Laws relating to public records and registers, also do not require explicit registration of the collected data, and there is no knowledge of the registration body of when and to whom the data were disclosed. Moreover, some registration authorities, on the basis of generally formulated principles of transparency, put the data from public records for public networks such as the Internet, which makes impossible to control access of who accessed such register. The GIODO noted that the PPD does not prohibit the creation of separate collections based on data from sources generally available, however, it does not mean that such collections are not subject to the provisions of the PPD. The Company receives data from the National Court Register in order to create a separate database, which uses for its own commercial purposes. In this way, Info Veriti Polska becomes the administrator of the collected data, therefore, as the controller, it is obliged to information requirements. The right of individuals to keep information regarding their situation and status in private, is constitutionally guaranteed, and may be restricted exclusively by laws that have the statutory rank (only Acts). The Act on the National Court Register (KRS) is just such an act. In this case, the record of a natural person entered to the KRS is publicly available, because such Register was created to ensure the transparency of the economic market in Poland. The persons referred to in the Act on the National Court Register, are therefore required to provide their data for inclusion in the register and they must also reckon with the disclosure. This does not mean, however, that they must agree to the use of their data for purposes other than the generally speaking, transparency of economic activity. However, the data controller that processes personal data should provide due care in order to protect the interests of the persons whose data were collected and in particular to ensure that the data were collected for specified and legitimate purposes and are not further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes. The GIODO also noted that the list of situations that allow for waive the requirement to provide information, referred to in 25(1) of the PPD has changed as a result of amendments to the Act that were made in 2004. The provision of Article 25(2) pt 2 that allowed to waive the abovementioned obligation in a situation where the data provided for collection are generally available, was repealed. For these reasons, it was obvious that the intention of the legislature was to require data controllers who collect data “generally available” to completing the duties arising out of the provision of Article 25(1) of the PPD.
The company filed a complaint to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw against the decisions issued by the GIODO. Info Veriti requested the Court to decide on the invalidity, or their repeal, in addition, the Company has applied for stay of the execution of the contested decisions and the order to return the costs of proceedings. Infor Veirit claimed that the processed data is very limited, restricted to surname, the national identification number (PESEL), date of birth and functions performed in the entities disclosed in the KRS. Therefore, it is impossible to provide information to persons whose data are processed, because some of them have historical character. These are people who in the past served specific functions. The data administrator is not able to provide such individuals with the required information. The data controller does not process data allowing for direct contact with a person (e.g. home address), and sending information to the address of the entity (e.g. companies created according to the provisions of the Polish Code of Commercial Companies), which in the past served a given function, can not be considered for the execution of the decision. In order to comply with the decision, Info Veriti would need to gather additional categories of data to make contact and send the required information. However, such an obligation should clearly expressed in the decision, which has not happened. The Company has no legal basis for the acquisition of new categories of personal data. The deadline of three months that was ordered by the GIODO is unrealistic in order to collect the required contact data in relation to all of the data are included in the database. The Company noted that its database contains all the data entered in the National Court Register. The purpose of data entered in the National Court Register is closely related to business transactions, and the widespread availability of the registry should not be regarded as interference in the private sphere of the individual whose data is disclosed in the registry. There isn’t therefore a need to notify such persons regarding the process of collecting their personal data, as instruments of public-law on protection of personal data are treated as protection of the right to privacy. The person who serves or served in the bodies of commercial companies must accept that the data will be in an open public record to which access will have anyone interested in business. The purpose of transparency and certainty of economic activity, according to the legislator, prevails over the protection of the name, surname, date of birth and the PESEL number of the persons who performed specific functions in the bodies that were entered into the KRS. Info Veriti also disagreed with the opinion of the GIODO, which opposes the existence and goals of the KRS and data collection of the Company, the latter being also created in order to provide the transparency of economic activity. Services provided by the Company are based on data from public records and explicitly relate to economic activity of specific individuals. Such commercial processing of data previously collected by public entities is allowed by EU law, such as Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information. Information on such entities contributes to the establishment of the internal market and creates a system ensuring undisturbed competition in that market. It is also emphasized that public sector information is an important starting material for products and services related to digital content, and more opportunities to re-use this information should allow European companies to use their potential and contribute to economic growth and job creation. As “information services” of Info Veriti are based on data obtained from public records, they fit into the goals provided in the recitals of the Directive 2003/98/EC. According to Infor Veirit, the consequences of the position taken in the decisions of the GIODO, which implies obligation to provide information to any person that collects data from the National Court Register, if there are situations referred to in Article 2 (1-2) of the PPD, are also unacceptable.
1. The Act shall determine the principles of personal data processing and the rights of natural persons whose personal data is or can be processed as a part of a data filing system.
2. The Act shall apply to the processing of personal data in:
1) files, indexes, books, lists and other registers,
2) computer systems, also in case where data are processed outside from a data filing system.
Such requirement would have to be commonly executed in the course of trade in relation to a number of activities related to the acquisition of data from the National Court Register. Given the widespread use of copies of the KRS, that are used for instance to identify the persons authorized to represent the company at the conclusion of the contract, such an interpretation would lead to economic paralysis, and certainly also to the irrational (excessive) financial costs, in the name of privacy protection, which in the present case does not occur.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 2 June 2011 case file II SA/Wa 720/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court held that the Polish legislator afforded the citizen’s right to privacy in Articles 47, 49 and 51 of the Constitution. This also includes the protection of personal data and privacy against excessive interference by others. The provision of Article 47 of the Constitution sets out the principle of the protection of private life, Article 49 provides for the protection of the correspondence, while the provision of Article 51 states that no one shall be obliged, except under the Act to disclose information concerning his person, a public authority may not acquire, collect and share information on citizens other than those necessary in a democratic state ruled by law, everyone has the right of access to official documents and it datasets. Limitation of this right may be established by statute (act), and to anyone has the right to request the correction or deletion of information incorrect, incomplete, or collected in a manner inconsistent with the Act. These regulations are expanded in the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments, which in turn refers to the solutions contained in Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. These instruments created a basic framework for data protection in the Republic of Poland. The PPD created statutory principle of the protection of personal data. In accordance with Article 1 of the PPD, any person has a right to have his/her personal data protected. The processing of personal data can be carried out in the public interest, the interest of the data subject, or the interest of any third party, within the scope and subject to the procedure provided for by the Act. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right of citizens in a democratic state of law. Protection of personal data is closely connected with the protection of private life and, therefore, it determines the freedom of the citizen. The right to protection of personal data, however, is not absolute and it is limited in the interests of the public or justified interests of others. However, since it is a citizen’s right, that determines a person’s sense of freedom, the exceptions allowing for the collection and use of personal data should be subject to strict interpretation. The legislature guided by the values of protection of constitutional rights cannot allow for a situation in which the law by the wider interpretation of the provisions relating to the processing of personal data, is violated. The provisions of the Act on the National Court Register lay down the rules of registration and the rules of disclosure of data. Such data are available electronically by the Central Information of the KRS or by viewing the register files in the appropriate departments of the Polish courts. These data are made available to any interested person, for the purposes of certainty of economic activity. The persons who undertakes an activity that is to be entered into the KRS, knows that the data is maintained by the State in the registry and data will be used only on the basis of the provisions relating to the functioning of the registry. Meanwhile, Info Veriti collects personal data and information disclosed in the register, such as surname, the PESEL number into its own database, in which data are processed. Data and information from the KRS are not intended for this purpose, and the people who share their personal information do not accept the fact that their personal data had been placed in another private database. When entrepreneurs decide to place their data into the KRS, they also have confidence that such data will be disclosed and used only in a manner permitted by the Act on the National Court Register. The legislature cannot allow for the situation that the protection of personal data contained in the KRS will not be limited to entities that wish to use the data for other purposes, and in a different way than permitted by the Act on the National Court Register. At this time, it would lead to a situation in which data from KRS could be used in an unrestricted way, against the will of the people entered into the register, for instance, in order to create a database for the marketing campaign. The court did not agree with the argument that the contested decision is contrary to the provisions of Directive 2003/98/EC. According to the court, the Directive does not apply directly to the Polish law, as EU directives are implemented into the law of a Member State and only then enter into force in the legal system. This Directive is not implemented to the Polish law, and Poland still works on the implementation. The court held that the contested decision is enforceable. Info Veriti builds its own database and has data that allow the Company to perform the information requirement to those who are in the database. It is possible because there are surnames and PESEL numbers of individuals, and businesses headquarters, where they perform given functions. Moreover, Info Veriti may use the services of the Central Bureau of Domiciliary. The fact that it is a big organizational task and it involves a large number of people does not mean that it is not feasible. By building a large database the Company had to be aware that in relation to the number of people it will have specific obligations according to the provisions of the PPD. Info Veriti filed a requested to stay the execution of the decisions.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 30 September 2011 case file I OSK 1827/11 decided to stay the execution of both decisions.
On May 2008, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark V V V.V. MOTOR R-205440 for goods in Class 12. This sign was applied for by FUSAN HANDICRAFT Co. from Taiwan. On April 2009, Volkswagen AG filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office. VW argued that the trade mark in question is similar to its well-known and reputed CTM, and the reputation is obvious and does not require any evidence. After careful examination of the case, the PPO invalidated the right of protection. FUSAN HANDICRAFT Co. filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 November 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1616/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court ruled that despite the editorial differences in the lists of goods of compared trade marks, the PPO correctly decided that some of the goods are to be regarded as identical. The Court agreed that the dominant element of the trade mark at issue was a composition of graphics and letters placed in the circle. That was another argument in favour of finding the similarity of signs. So the phonetic differences resulting from the different pronunciation of the letters “VV” and “VW” did not neutralize the visual similarity between the marks. The Court did not agree with the argument that the PPO failed to properly assess the similarity of the goods. The PPO did not examine too broadly the comparable lists of goods, becasue there was no doubt that VW using the priority, had the chance to seek for the broader protection for its trade mark.
Eryk Schuman wrote an article regarding Klaudiusz Sevkovic who is an alderman of Chorzów city and also the president of the local handball club. This critical piece appeared at dlachorzowa.pl website. According Mr Schuman, the data given in the declaration of interests of the alderman, could indicate that Mr Sevkovic uses the communal property in his private economic activities. Sevkovic filed a suit for the protection of his personal interests. He argued that the article overstated the amount of cash taken from the club. Mr Schuman wrote that the alderman took 275 thousand PLN (Schuman used the abbreviation “tys.” which stands for thousand in Polish) for a contract work. The journalist referred to a statement of financial interests filed by Sevkovic. However, the amount disclosed in the statement was 275 PLN not 275 tys. PLN. Schuman argued that it was an unintentional mistake in the text, and it was corrected immediately after he noticed it. He noted that the goal of the article was to draw attention to irregularities of the activities of alderman. Meanwhile, Sevkovic argued that such false information was visible on at least for two weeks and it was removed only after sending a letter to the editor to request a correction, and to publish an apology, which, however, never appeared on the website.
The District Court in Katowice in its judgment of 6 August 2012 case file I C 116/12 ruled that Eryk Schuman infringed Mr Sevkovic’s personal interest. The Court noted that the article served to undermine the credibility and good name of Sevkovic in the public opinion. The Court did not consider the text in question as a “typographical error”.
FS File Solutions Ltd. is the owner of a popular hosting website chomikuj.pl that allows for hosting different files by using a simple web interface. The Polish Chamber of Books (PCB) is Poland’s publishing industry trade body that found many of its titles available on chomikuj.pl without the permission of copyright holders. The PCB issued negative press and TV statements regarding chomiku.pl policy and business model. The Company sued the PCB for the infringement of its personal interests. FS claimed that by calling it “pirate service” the PCB infringed on its the company name (firm).
The District Court in Warszawa I Civil Chamber in its judgment of 20 February 2013 case file I C 407/12 ruled that PCB did not infringed personal interests of FS.
On 6 September 2007, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark PRESTIGE OLIMPIC R-197858 for goods in Class 19 such as non-metallic construction materials, timber liners, bonded and not bonded floorboards, flooring lumber, sawn wood, planed and machined wood, construction wood, laminate flooring. This sign was applied for by the Polish company Barlinek S.A. The International Olympic Committee filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office. The IOC noted that the name INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMITEE is used since 1894, and the questioned trade mark causes the violation of its property rights and personal interests, in particular the right to the company name. In addition, the IOC claimed that the sign PRESTIGE OLIMPIC is similar to the CTM THE OLYMPICS no. 002827632, registered with the earlier priority, which may cause a risk of consumers confusion. Barlinek S.A. did not agree with such arguments and argued that both trade marks are completely different. The Company pointed out that the goods in Class 19 that are marked with the sign THE OLYMPICS have not been introduced on the Polish market.
The Polish Patent Office in its decision of 6 December 2010 no. Sp. 345/09 dismissed the request. According to the PPO, the words “Olympic” and “Olympics” are similar, but without prejudice to the similarity of signs. The PPO ruled that in this case, the recipients of goods are specialists in the construction industry, who are buying all the supplies at special stores and warehouses or directly from the manufacturers. Therefore, they are deemed as people paying bigger attention, as professionals, to the goods that they purchase. Such professional customers are well-versed in quality, product names and parameters as they are interested and will pay a special attention to who is the manufacturer of the goods.The IOC filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 27 February 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 2458/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO ruled correctly that multiple signs and trade marks are used as the determination of the Olympic Games. However, no evidence was submitted that the sign THE OLYMPICS is being used in relation to the Olympics. The owner of the CTM did not show the connection between the CTM and any other goods. The sign THE OLYMPICS cannot be deemed as reputed trade mark only because its translation to Polish means Olympic games or Olympics. It is necessary to demonstrate the link between the mark and the goods and/or services. Therefore, the Court decided that the reputation has not been proven. Both signs are written in standard fonts, without any particular distinguishing features, so the same way they are written does not cause that any of the elements of these characters is predominant. The PPO correctly concluded that, despite the similarity of words in the second position in both characters, it cannot be said that the trade marks are confusingly similar. The judgment is not final. The IOC filed a cassation complaint.
On August 2008, the Polish law firm BSO PRAWO & PODATKI – Bramorski Szermach Okorowska Kancelaria Prawna Spółka komandytowa from Wrocław applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark BSO RECHT & STEUERN Z-344756, for legal services in Class 45. The PPO refused because of the similarity with the CTM BSO no. 001463017 registered with the earlier priority for services in class 41 such as education and providing of training relating to intellectual property, patent, trademark, design and legal matters and relating to research and development for others, and in Class 42 for services such as Intellectual property consultancy, patent, design and trademark agency, including legal consultancy, engineering services, research and development for third parties and computer programming and services in relation to computer hardware, all relating to intellectual property, patent, trademark, design and legal matters and relating to research and development for others. This CTM is owned by the Danish IP law firm BUDDE SCHOU A/S. The PPO stated that the phrase “Recht & Stenern” (English: tax and law) is devoid of any distinctive character, as an expression, which determines only the scope of activities. This expression is not noticeable in the sign, because it is written in very small letters at the bottom, so there is no significant impact on public perception. Undoubtedly for the PPO, the acronym BSO was predominant, and the fact that the applied trade mark consists of three words and the earlier sign only one – BSO, was not important in this situation for the assessment of similarity. The PPO concluded that the same assesment applies to the figurative element. BSO PRAWO & PODATKI filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1269/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that a stylized symbol of section sign (paragraph) is generally accepted as an indication of the persons and entities providing legal services. Such a figurative element, no matter in what color or in any styling, recognizable as a double S symbol, is perceived to be connected with the law. It was difficult to accept that such an element, in a graphic that indicates the applicant’s company, would distinguish it from other law firms or companies providing legal services. The difference in the territorial operation of both companies was irrelevant for the PPO and the Court, because the CTM covers the entire territory of the European Union, and both companies are located there, in different Member States. This judgment is final.
On January 2000, the Polish Patent Office registered the trade mark DACH-BUD PERDKOWIE R-116968 for goods in Class 19 and services in Class 37. This sign was applied for by Polish entrepreneurs Krzysztof Perdek and Zbigniew Perdek Zakład Ogólnobudowlany DACH-BUD in 1996. Przedsiębiorstwo Budownictwa Ogólnego DACH BUD Spółka z o.o. from Wrocław filed a request for invalidation. DACH BUD argued that at the time of trade mark application, it was the only business that has used the sign DACH BUD as its company name. In 2002, one of the shareholders of the present company DACH BUD Spółka z o.o., has filed a request for invalidation, but it was dismissed by the PPO and the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 22 December 2005 case file VI SA/Wa 337/05.
Also in this case, the PPO dismissed the request and decided that the proceedings were separate and independent in relation to proceedings that were held before on the request of the predecessor of DACH BUD. According to the PPO, the request based on the provisions of Article 8(2) of the old Polish Act of 31 January 1985 on Trade Marks – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with subsequent amendments, was unjustified, and there were no grounds to invalidate the right of protection. That provision states that the registration of a sign which infringes personal or property rights of third parties, has to be refused. All the personal interests that are protected under the provisions of the Polish Civil Code, are identified among the rights of a personal nature. The name (firm) of the limited liability company (spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością) is the name under which the company is established according to the provisions of the Polish Code of Commercial Companies. The name of business/entrepreneur is treated as its personal right and as such is protected as the right to company name. According to legal commentators, it is an absolute personal right of an entrepreneur, and it is effective, erga omnes, against all. Its content is defined as the ability to use the company name to identify business/entrepreneurs on the market. The company name of a private person or entrepreneurs acting as a commercial companies, is not transferable. The Polish legal doctrine and case law established the view that the registration of a sign that is corresponding to the designation of another entrepreneur, that was used before the registration of that trade mark, affects the personal interests of such entrepreneur. However, that interference in the sphere of personal property, and more specifically – in the right to the name of the entrepreneur, may also occur in case of use of the part of that name, if it is a part that is fulfilling the function that sufficiently individualize an entity, i.e. that allows to uniquely identify and distinguish the company from other private or legal (corporate) persons. The PPO ruled that a similar position should be adopted in case of registration of a figurative sign, which in the word element contains the company name (firm) of another entity, or a significant part of it. The PPO noted that the company did not exist at the filing date of the disputed trade mark, and it could not effectively rely on the infringement of its right to the company name by the disputed sign, Therefore, if the applicant’s right was not the right “with a better priority”, there were no grounds to consider the request. In the opinion of the PPO, in the exercise of its personal interests, the applicant could rely only on the right enjoyed by it exclusively, and not by others. In particular, the company could not claim and invoke any right that was enjoyed by its shareholder – a private person. DACH BUD Spółka z o.o. filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 January 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1222/11 agreed with the PPO and dismissed it. The Court noted that in case of conflict of rights, in this case, the protection right for a trade mark with a personal interest that includes the right to company name, the priority is to protect the personal interest. However, the registration of a trade mark that is identical or similar to a company name does not prejudge the infringement of the right to a company name. This exclusive right is not a total absolute. Its limits are defined by the coverage (territorial and goals) and the time of actual activities of the entity that is using the name. The collision between identical or similar company name and a trade mark may occur only within these limits. This judgment is not final yet.
On 18 December 2009, the National Rebirth of Poland (NOP), a nationalist political party, requested the District Court in Warsaw to enter changes in the Register of Political Parties (RPP) with regard to address and its members, and to register new additional figurative symbols associated with this party. The Court had doubts, whether applied symbols were consistent with the principles of the Polish Constitution which say that the existence of political parties and other organizations whose programmes are based upon totalitarian methods and the modes of activity of Nazism, fascism and communism, as well as those whose programmes or activities sanction racial or national hatred, the application of violence for the purpose of obtaining power or to influence the State policy, or provide for the secrecy of their own structure or membership, should be prohibited. The District Court requested the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to examine whether goals, rules and activities of the NOP that are resulting from the change of symbols, are in accordance with the Constitution.
The Constitutional Tribunal in its order of 6 April 2011 case file Pp 1/10 with fice dissenting opinions, decided to discontinue the proceedings, and ruled that it cannot decide on the merits of the case, because there was lack of evidence, and the District Court was required to examine if the applied signs contain fascist symbolism. However, the Tribunal emphasized that such circumstances cannot be presumed, because of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of association and freedom of expression and speech.
The District Court was bound by the interpretation, and therefore requested the additional materials, together with the expert opinions on whether applied signs contain clear symbolic that is racist, totalitarian, fascist or Nazi. The linguist and historian experts issued an opinion in which they declared that the symbol of the crowned eagle with a cross, with the lictors’ rods and ax, was first seen in the Ancient Rome, and this symbol does not involve a specific message. The party emphasizes a strong role of state and refers to the Imprerium Romanum. Fasces are only a small part of the whole symbol, so as such it has quite a different meaning. For instance, fasces are included in the modern coat of arms of France and USA. It would be difficult to accuse both states of promoting fascism. The Celtic cross symbolized the sun, but it was also accepted by the Church as one of the cross symbols, and by choosing this symbol, NOP refers to the Slavic, and even Catholic and Polish and National themes. The experts noted that the symbol stylized as a road sign indicates the prohibition of homosexual acts in public places, which is consistent with generally accepted morality. The Court repeated after the experts that it would be too social sensed to look for additional symbolic and meanings. Experts said that the sign is just tasteless and vulgar and violates the principles of etiquette, but it does not promote any prohibited content. The symbol of the Cross and Sword is the signs associated with the Knightly Order of the Cross and the Sword – Polish secret organization of Catholic and moral values, established at the end of the Second Polish Republic and active at the first years of German occupation. Experts decided that all the sign act as self-identification of members of a political party rather than promote illegal content.
The District Court in Warsaw in its order of 25 October 2011 case file VIII Ns Rej Ew Pzm 77/09 did not find any legal obstacles to register all the applied signs. Professor Irena Lipowicz, the Polish Ombudsman, and the District Prosecutor Office in Warsaw both appealed. The Ombudsman argued, inter alia, that the expert opinion was not clear, coherent and complete. The Prosecutor noted that there were procedural issues. Prof. Lipowicz argued that the Polish Act on Political Parties provides that a party is allowed to apply and register only one graphic/figurative element that would serve as the identification symbol for its voters, analogously as consumers of commercial products available on the market. Such a symbol will acquire protection similar to this afforded for personal interests. Granting of such legal protection, which does not serve as an identification of a political party, but is the manifestation of expression on other participants in social life, would lead to blockage of public debate. Such protection would also have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.
The Appellate Court in Warsaw decided that a political party cannot register more than one graphic symbol. The District Court in its order of 17 April 2012 ruled that it cannot enter additional symbols into the Register of Political Parties because NOP has already registered a number of other signs such as the so-called phalanx (the symbol of a hand with sword), and their excess would impede the statutory requirement of the recognition of the political party. Undoubtedly, these judgments met with strong criticism because of the lack of a clear opinion on hate speech. Basing the decision on the argument for the registration of only one symbol was somehow an “escape” by the Courts to decide on the most important principles of a democratic state.
MEDianus sp. z o.o. and Medianus Agencja Reklamowa sp. z o.o. are seated in the same city, at a location nearby. The first one uses medianus.net domain name and the second medianus.pl. The first company was entered in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS) as MEDianus in June 2003 r. The second one was entered in 2009. MEDianus sp. z o.o. filed a complaint, to prohibit the other company to use the name “medianus” in the company name and as a domain name, based on the provisions of Article 3 and 5 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments. MEDianus sp. z o.o. argued the the use of the same company name caused many confusions with delivery of post or invoices.
The District Court dismissed all claims. However, the Appellate Court in Kraków agreed with MEDianus sp. z o.o. appeal and ordered Medianus Agencja Reklamowa to change its company name and website and to publish an apology in two national newspapers.
The Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file III CSK 120/11 dismissed the complaint filed by Medianus Agencja Reklamowa. The Court held that in order to apply the provisions of Article 5 of the CUC, both companies have to be in competitive relationship. This situation happens when there is a risk of confusion with regard to the identity of entrepreneurs. The Court also confirmed that the so-called cybersquatting is an unnamed delict (tort) under the Polish law on combating unfair competition.
See also “Polish case law on domain names“.
The Polish Patent Office partially refused to grant the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark moja historia Z-338905. This sign was applied for PHOENIX PRESS Sp. z o.o. Sp.k. from Wrocław for goods and services in Class 09, 16, 35, 39, 41 and 42. The PPO based its refusal in Class 09, 16 and 41 on the earlier registration of the word-figurative trade mark Moja historia R-187793 owned by WYDAWNICTWO ERA Sp. z o.o. from Straszyn. PHOENIX only agreed that both companies are publishers, but the signs are meant for other goods and are directed to another recipients. Phoenix is a press publisher whose clients are adult women and WYDAWNICTWO ERA is a publisher of school history textbooks (mainly the history of Poland), which customers are students in primary schools.
The PPO decided that there exists similarity of signs and goods and services which may lead to consumers confiusion. PHOENIX filed a complaint against this decision. The Company argued inter alia that the PPO could grant the right of protection and it would not deprive WYDAWNICTWO ERA of protection provided for instance in the Polish Act on Combating of unfair competition, if PHOENIX’s trade mark would actually threaten the existence and functions of the trade mark owned by ERA.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 611/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court ruled that regulations on combating unfair competition are provided in a separate act, and it is justified by both the construction of the Polish legal system and due to the method of regulation. The law on combating unfair competition does not create absolute rights, but only the system of legal claims that provides protection in the event of unwanted and objectionable market behavior and actions (unfair competition delicts or torts), which is a different approach than those adopted in the Polish Industrial Property Law, which are based on the granting of absolute rights (monopolies) by an administrative decision.
In 2007, for about 6 months, the Polish Central Anti-corruption Bureau collected telecommunications data, including billings and location data from Base Transceiver Stations, of a Polish journalist Bogdan Wróblewski. Mr Wróblewski sued the Polish State Treasury which according to the Polish law represents the Polish state in certain legal aspects..
The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 26 April 2012 case file II C 626/11 has confirmed that the Central Anti-corruption Bureau violated personal interests of a journalist by collecting his telecommunications data. The Court pointed out that privacy is a fundamental human right and its breach must be justified and proportionate. The permission is limited “objectively” to offenses of corruption and “qualitatively” – its condition should be determined by the fact that there are not available less invasive means of control which could be useful. The process of receiving of telecommunications data must take into account these limitations each time it is initiated.
On May 2007, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark Vondutch R-190394, that was applied for by “SEREN TEKSTIL” Sp. z o.o. for goods in Class 25 and Class 35. The Irish company V D Europe from Dublin filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. V D Europe argued that it is the owner of the CTM VON DUTCH no. 000336495, that was registered with the earlier priority of 8 August 1996 for good in Class 25. On 20 January 2010, the patent attorney representing V D Europe informed the PPO that the company Royer Brands International Sàrl is the new owner of the CTM VON DUTCH. The representative provided proper evidence of total transfer of ownership, and the POA from the new owner.
The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its decision of 3 February 2010 case no. Sp. 499/08 dismissed the opposition, and decided that Royer Brands International has no rights to conduct proceedings that were started by another company. The PPO ruled that Royer Brands International is not related structurally, financially, or linked in any legal way with V D EUrope. The PPO decided that the request was unfounded, because the owner sold its rights to a trade mark. Royer Brands International filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 23 November 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1530/11 repealed the contested decision, ruled it unenforceable, and returned the case to the PPO for further reconsideration. The Court found that Royer Brands International has confirmed all the declarations of will and actions that were taken during the opposition proceedings by every person acting on the basis of previously submitted POA. In the opinion of the Court, the wording of Article 162 of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), 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 subsequent amendments, was deciding in the present case.
1. The right of protection for a trade mark may be assigned or be subject to succession. The provisions of Article 67(2) and (3) shall apply accordingly.
11. The right of protection for a trade mark may be transferred to the organizations referred to in Articles 136 and 137 as a collective trade mark or collective guarantee trade mark respectively or to a number of entities as a collective right of protection.
12. Transfer of the right of protection, referred to in paragraph (11) may be effected only with the consent of the parties who enjoy that right.
13. Entry in the trade mark register of the transfer of the right of protection, referred to in paragraph (11) after the regulations governing use of the trade mark, referred to in Article 122 (2), Article 136(2) or Article 137(1) have been submitted.
14. A collective right of protection may be transferred to a single party as a right of protection for a trade mark.
3. The right of protection for a collective trade mark may be assigned as a joint right of protection to the undertakings grouped in the organisation referred to in Article 136. The contract of assignment shall determine the rules governing the use of such trade mark to the extent to which it is practised in respect of the regulations referred to in Article 122(2).
31. A collective right of protection may be transferred to the organizations referred to in Articles 136 and 137 as a collective trade mark or a collective guarantee mark. A contract for the transfer of the right should specify the rules governing use of that trade mark to the extent as it is provided for in respect of the regulations referred to in Article 136(2) and Article 137(1) respectively.
4. The right of protection for a trade mark may also be assigned in respect of certain goods for which the right of protection has been granted, if the goods for which the trade mark remains registered on behalf of the vendor are not of the same kind. Once assigned, the right in question shall be dealt with as independent of the right enjoyed by the vendor.
5. The contract of assignment of a share in the joint right of protection shall be valid subject to the consent given by all of the joint owners.
6. Paragraphs (1), (3) to (5) shall apply accordingly to the right deriving from an application filed with the Patent Office, for which no right of protection has yet been granted.
This provision introduces a general principle of transferability of the right of protection for a trade mark. The disposal of rights of protection may be primarily based on a contract of sale, exchange, or a contract of donation. However, it should be also stressed that the agreement transferring the right of protection shall be in writing, in order to be valid. Also, the relevant provisions of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 30, item 168, consolidated text of 9 October 2000, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 98, item 1071 with subsequent amendments, were applicable in this case.
§ 1. Legal capacity and the capacity to enter into legal transactions shall be determined according to the provisions of civil law, unless specific provisions provide otherwise.
§ 2. Natural persons with no capacity to enter into legal transactions shall act through their legal representatives.
§ 3. Parties not being natural persons shall act through their legal or statutory representatives.
§ 4. In matters concerning transferable or hereditable rights, in case of a transfer of the right or death of the party during the pendency of the proceedings the legal successors of the party shall join the proceedings in lieu of the party.
In the opinion of the Court, Royer Brands International, under the law being in force in the Republic of Poland, has not only become the legal successor to the CTM VON DUTCH, which was the results of the valid contract of transfer of the Community trade mark, that was accepted and confirmed by OHIM in 2009, but is also the legal successors in the opposition proceedings. This means that the PPO has committed a violation of the provisions of substantive law (regulations included in Article 162 of the IPL) through their incorrect interpretation, and consequently its improper application in the case. Furthermore, the Court ordered the PPO a careful analysis of the substantive merits of the opposition, including the similarity of the signs.
On December 2010, the Polish Patent Office refused to grant the righ of protection for the word-figurative trade mark Geo Globe Polska Z-359999 applied for the Polish company GEO GLOBE POLSKA sp. z o.o. sp. k.a. The PPO decided that according to the provisions of Article 131(2)(ii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), 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 subsequent amendments, it is not allowed to grant the right of protection for signs which include the name or abbreviation of the Republic of Poland, if the applicant has not shown entitlement, in particular the permission of the competent authority of the State, to use the trade mark with such element.
2. A right of protection shall not be granted for a sign, if:
(ii) it incorporates the name or abbreviated name of the Republic of Poland, or its symbols (emblem, national colours or national anthem), the names or armorial bearings of Polish voivodships, towns or communities, the insignia of the armed forces, paramilitary organisations or police forces, reproductions of Polish decorations, honorary distinctions or medals, military medals or military insignia, or other official or generally used distinctions and medals, in particular those of government administration, local self-administration or social organisations performing activities in vital public interests, where these organisations’ activities extend to the entire territory of the State or to a substantial part thereof, unless the applicant is able to produce evidence of his right, in particular in a form of an authorisation issued by a competent State agency or a permission given by an organisation, to use the sign in the course of trade,
The company argued that the name “Polska” is not mentioned among the above conditions, and that Geo Globe Polska has an established position in international business. The company argued that it has tried to obtain permission from the competent authority, but it did not succeed, which in its opinion indicates that there is no legal basis to issue the relevant permit. The Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President of the Republic of Poland issued statements that the prohibition on use of the name or abbreviation of the Republic of Poland is absolute. Geo Globe Polska filed a complaint against this decision. The company claimed that the PPO should make a literal rather than a broad interpretation of the provisions of IPL. Geo Globe Polska argued that many business entities in Poland are using the term “Polska”.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 22 November 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1749/11 dismissed it. The VAC held that it is obvious that the official name “Rzeczpospolita Polska” (Republic of Poland) includs the element “Polska”. Thus, it can be regarded as an abbreviation of the name of the country. The abbreviation “Rzeczposoplita” has constitutional status, i.e. it is included in the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, and its second element, whether in the Polish language or in translation into other languages, is the distinguishing element of the country’s name, and it’s commonly used at international meetings, competitions, including sports events. Moreover, even the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 March 2005 case file I GSK 1423/04 published in LEX No. 186863, held that the protection is also afforded for the abbreviations in the form of the ISO 3166 standard for country codes, such as ID or PL. In another judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 23 March 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 2184/06, the Court held that the name “Poland” is not sufficiently distinctive. The word “Poland” is the English name of the Republic of Poland, and the Polish Patent Office rightly pointed in this case, that even for people who do not know the Polish language, the term “Poland” will always be associated with the country, and not to a specific entrepreneur. The Court also noted that the provisions of Article 6 ter point 1a) of the Paris Convention and Article 7(1)(h) and (i) of the Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark should be taken into account. The Court ruled that the protection of symbols under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention is absolute and applies to all goods and services. It concerns the symbols of particular public interest.
Cezary Pazura sued Grupa o2, the owner and publisher of pudelek.pl website. Mr Pazura claimed that the company infringed his dignity, the inviolability of the home, privacy and publicity, by publishing 17 articles that concerned his relationship with Edyta Zajac, then fiancee, and now his wife. He argued that comments like “his mistress was no longer pretending, what she meant?”, “oldish playboy” were clear examples of the infringement. The District Court agreed with Mr Pazura, but Grupa o2 appealled, and the Appellate Court reversed the contested judgment and dismissed the suit. Mr Pazura filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 December 2011 case file I CSK 111/11 repealed the contested decision and returned it to the Appellate Court for further reconsideration. The Court held that the public status of a person does not automatically mean that his or her private life becomes also a “public life”. The Court clarified the understanding of the provision of Article 14(6) of the Polish Act of 26 January 1984 on Press law – APL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo prasowe), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 5, item 24, with subsequent amendmets.
It is not allowed to publish information and data concerning the private sphere of life without the consent of the person concerned, unless it is connected directly with the public activity of such a person.
The Court ruled that in this case it was necessary to demonstrate the relationship between the public activity carried out by Mr Pazura, and published image, or private information that was published on pudelek.pl website. Therefore, it had to be a relationship between a person’s behavior in the public sphere. In addition, the disclosure of such information should serve to protect specific, socially legitimate interest. Therefore, the primary task of the courts was to determine whether in this case, Mr. Pazura’s consent was granted, or whether it was not needed at all.
Arnold Buzdygan sued Agora S.A. the owner and publisher of kobieta.gazeta.pl website, claiming that the company infringed his personal interest by publishing an online article entitled “Trolls – Internet’s vexatious personas” in which his name was mentioned. The District Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 December 2011 case file III C 202/09 dismissed the complaint and ruled that the criteria of the infringement of personal interests should be based on objective rather than subjective circumstances that usually arise from the feelings of the person concerned. The objective response of public opinion is more important in such case. The Court noted that Mr Buzdygan is a public person whose opinions and statements were subject to criticism by other users. Such negative comments were directed to his activities and comments posted on the Internet, and not directly against him.
The company Polska Wódka (in English: Polish Vodka) from Warsaw sued two other companies Wódka Polska sp. z o. o. and Wódka Polska sp. komandytowa from Lublin (both companies are lined with Stock Spirits, former Polmos Lublin) for the infringement of the company name based on the regulations included in the Polish Civil Code that provides that the company name of the entrepreneur should differ sufficiently from the company names of other entrepreneurs that carry on their activities on the same market. The company name may not be misleading, in particular as regards the entrepreneur’s person, the object of their activity, place of activity and supply sources, and the Polish Act on Combating Unfair Competition which treats the use of the designation of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, based on the use of trade mark, name, emblem, letter abbreviation or another characteristic symbol already lawfully used to indicate another undertaking, as the act of unfair competition.
Polska Wódka claimed that it has the priority to its company name based on the entry in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS). The name of Warsaw’s company was entered in 2003, and the company names of Lublin’s entities were entered accordingly in 2005 and 2009. Polska Wódka argued that both sued companies act intentionally in order to mislead other market participants.
Both defendants did not agree with the suit and argued that they obtained the right to use their company names under final and binging decisions of the registration court, and noted that Polska Wódka does not proved that it performs any business activity under its company name because there are no annual reports in the KRS that would serve as proof of use.
The District Court in Lublin in its judgment case file IX GC 367/11 dismissed the suit as unfounded. The Court agreed that the company from Warsaw was the first one to start the use of the questioned name, however, it did not provided any evidence of its use in order to prove the confusion of other market participants. The Court also ruled that the protection if afforded to designation that are put in genuine use, not to these that were only registered in the KRS. Finally, the Court noted that the name Polska wódka (Polish vodka) is descriptive term related to a product name that is connected with a specific business activity, and it cannot be appropriated by single company. The Court ruled that Polish vodka is a designation that should be in the public domain, in order to be available for different entities which wish to use such name for their products. The judgment is not final yet.
This is another part of the saga of trade marks consisting of numerals. On March 2003, Agencja Wydawnicza TECHNOPOL Spółka z o.o. applied for the word trade mark 100 PANORAMICZNYCH Z-261876 for goods in Class 16 such as newspapers, charade magazines, booklets, brochures, flyers, calendars, posters, exercise books.
The Polish Patent Office decided that it cannot grant rights of protection for signs which cannot constitute a trade mark, or are devoid of sufficient distinctive character. The PPO reminded that the following are considered as being devoid of sufficient distinctive character (i) signs which are not capable of distinguishing, in trade, the goods for which they have been applied, (ii) signs which consist exclusively or mainly of elements which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, origin, quality, quantity, value, intended purpose, manufacturing process, composition, function or usefulness of the goods, (iii) signs which have become customary in the current language and are used in fair and established business practices. TECHNOPOL filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 April 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 410/10. TECHNOPOL filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 November 2011 case file II GSK 1033/10 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC agreed with allegations of violation of administrative proceedings that was based on erroneous findings that the disputed trade mark could not acquire secondary meaning. The Court noted that when the PPO is assessing whether or not a sign has a sufficient distinctive character, any circumstances accompanying its use in marking the goods in trade should be taken into consideration. Grant of a right of protection under previously mentioned rules may not be denied in particular where prior to the date of filing of a trademark application with the PPO, the trademark concerned has acquired, in consequence of its use, a distinctive character in the conditions of the regular trade. This indicates the possibility of acquiring secondary meaning by descriptive signs. In principle, secondary meaning can only be acquired by signs that are devoid of any distinctiveness, including descriptive or generic designations. Thus, the mere fact that the sign is purely informational does not preclude the acquisition of secondary meaning. Descriptive signs refer to the qualities or characteristics that may affect goods from various manufacturers.
Writing under a pseudonym, Dariusz B. posted a comment on the website “Gazeta online Elbląg 24″. In his post Dariusz B. wrote to the Mayor of the Elbląg town, that he has photographs of people who sit in the city council, and he described the content of these pictures as a “sex scandal”. He noted that the Mayor’s spokesman ignored this case, so he wanted to know what should he do next with such photographs. Other anonymous Internet users posted comments under the post that has been written by Dariusz B. One of them has disclosed who is the author of the post, and also expressed a negative opinion about the post, by calling it a blackmail. This person also suggested that Dariusz B. has used the media for his own purposes in order to manipulate press journalists. The intentions of Dariusz B. and his honesty, were also undermined. The post of Dariusz B. was described as a blatant violation of the law for which he should bear criminal responsibility. “Gazeta online Elbląg 24″ is a service available for free. It is operated by the Municipality of the Elblag town. The comment in which personal data of Dariusz B. was disclosed was written from a computer that had the IP address belonging to the organizational unit of the Elblag town. The unit operates wireless Wi-Fi, whose range includes several publicly accessible areas of the building and parking lot adjacent to it. It was not possible to identify the person who posted this comment. The Police, at the request of Dariusz B. commenced an investigation and failed to establish who was the author of the comment, even when the Municipality of Elblag has disclosed all data, including IP addresses. Dariusz B. sued the Municipality of Elbląg for the infringement of his personal interests. The District Court and the Appellate Court dismissed the suit. Dariusz B. filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Court in its judgment of 8 July 2011 case file IV CSK 665/10, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 898708, held that critical comments of the content of post and the very fact of its posting, or disclosure of the name and surname of Dariusz B., was not a violation of his personal interest. However, it was a violation of personal interests (dignity and reputation) when such action has been called illegal activity, fraudulent and manipulative, a blackmail and provocation, which undoubtedly discredited Dariusz B. in public opinion, especially as a social activist, who was active at another online forum. Such statement, not supported by the facts, was unlawful. In the case of an infringement of one’s personal interests, the court may award pecuniary compensation to a person whose personal interests have been infringed, an approriate amount as pecuniary compensation for the wrong suffered or may, on his demand, adjudge an appropriate amount of money to be paid for a social purpose chosen by him, irrespective of other means necessary to remedy the effects of the infringement. Not only the person who directly caused the damage shall be liable, but also any person who has induced or helped another person to cause the damage, including those who consciously took benefit from a damage caused to another person. However, the Court ruled that there was no normal causal link between the actions of the Municipality of Elblag, and the damage suffered by Dariusz B., and such a link occurs only when the action is directed to accomplish the tortious activity.
By opearating a website “Gazeta online Elbląg 24″ and a discussion forum, the Municipality of Elbląg was deemed as the Internet services provider. However, such ISPs, are responsible for the violation of personal rights performed by others only when they knew that the post violates these interests and they did not immediately prevent the access to the post. Therefore, the ISP is not obliged to control the content of posts written by users on a free discussion forum website. Taking into account the nature and purpose of services based on making available free of charge of a discussion website, and considering also that there were no general rules for the management of such services and systems, the Court held that there were no grounds to impose a general obligation on the ISP to provide tools to identify users of such a website. The Court ruled that the anonymity of persons using the publicly available online news website, is a generally accepted principle and essence of this type of service. It provides freedom of expression, which is the goal of such websites. Consequently, the Court held that the ISP that created and provides free access to the website with a discussion forum, has no obligation to ensure the ability to identify the users who maded posts on this website.
On 17 October 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word trade mark Auto-dap R-197829 for Dariusz Chudobiński from Łódź. Andrzej Teodorczyk who owns Auto Serwis Dap, that is located in Pabianice town, filed a notice of opposition.
Mr Teodorczyk claimed that Mr Chudobiński acted in bad faith. He also noted that the sign in question was widely known in Pabianice and it was associated with the automotive garage operated by him under the name “AUTO DAP”. The garage was located in the immediate vicinity of the garage owned by Mr Chudobiński. Mr Teodorczy argued that the DAP company was founded by him in 1984, and its designation is an abbreviation of three names. Mr Teodorczyk pointed out that he had shares in the company AUTO-DAP sp. z o.o., that was also founded by Mr Chudobiński and his wife, however, he never transferred the right to the AUTO DAP sign.
The PPO dismissed the opposition and ruled that the Company AUTO-DAP sp. z o.o. has the property right to its company name, and Mr Chdobiński received a proper authorization to file for a trade mark Auto-dap for his own. The PPO ruled that a short abbreviation DAP, as an abstract term, can not be attributed to specific individuals, as their personal interest due to the order of letters in this expression. These letters can have different meanings for the average customer in perception of this determination. The Patent Office did not agree that Auto-dap trade maw was filed in bad faith. Mr Chudobiński submitted evidence documents that he used the name DAP in his business. Mr Teodorczyk, as one of the founders of the AUTO-DAP company, has agreed (and did not oppose) the use of the company’s name (firm) in this way. He used the same DAP designation in his business activities as an individual and in a company which shares has has sold to the owner of the registered trade mark. Mr Chudobiński filed a trade mark application according to the authorization and undertook the obligation to transfer the disputed trade mark on the company, for each request. It was therefore an application that has been made in good faith – the mark was used by the company for nearly 6 years – and the authorization for its registration by Mr Chudobiński did not violate the provisions of the Articles of Association. Mr Teodorczyk filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 16 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 617/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that Mr Teodorczyk did not prove that Mr Chudobiński wanted to block business activities of Mr Teodorczyk for the reason that he has registered the disputed mark. The VAC noted also that Polish law provides that a right of protection will not be granted for a trade mark in respect of identical or similar goods, if the trade mark is identical or similar to a trade mark which, before the date according to which priority to obtain a right of protection is determined, has been well-known and used as a trade mark in respect of the goods of another party. However, this trade mark has to be well-known on the whole territory of the Republic of Poland or on a substantial part of it. The recognition and knowledge of the trade mark only in less than a significant part of the Polish territory, even if it is intense, does not create the right to a well-known trade mark. Knowledge of the trade mark in one city and its surroundings, even if it’s a large one, is not enough for the sign to be regarded as a well-known trade mark.