Archive for: Polish Supreme Administrative Court

Access to public information, case I OSK 2093/14

November 9th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

The ePaństwo Foundation requested the President of the Supreme Court to disclose information on agreements entered between the Supreme Court and the commercial publishers of case-law of the Supreme Court. First, the President refused to initiate proceedings in this case. The Foundation filed a complaint against such order. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 10 January 2012 case file II SA/Wa 2259/11 repealed it, and the President filed a cassation complaint that was dismissed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 September 2012 case file I OSK 916/12. The First President of the Supreme Court in its letter of 6 December 2012 informed the Foundation that the requested information is not public. The Foundation filed a complaint against the inactivity of the President. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 19 February 2014 case file II SAB/Wa 443/13 obliged the President to consider the request. The President filed a cassation comaplaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 30 September 2015 case file I OSK 2093/14 dismissed it and ruled that the First President of the Polish Supreme Court has to disclose the requested information. In the meantime, someone else has obtained all the requested agreements and made their copies available online.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 371/14

April 10th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 5 May 2010, PLAY Brand Management Limited applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for a single color trade mark Z-369967 defined in PANTONE scale as 2627C, for goods and services in Classes 9, 35 and 38.

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection and decided that the applied sign was not inherently distinctive in relation to communications services for mobile phones, and the applicant has not demonstrated sufficiently that the mark has acquired distinctivenes through use. PLAY submitted request for re-examination of the matter. The PPO ruled that the sign in question may serve as a trade mark, since it was applied graphically and identified using the code recognized at international level, i.e. Pantone number. Such a figurative representation of a single color is in line with the requirements set for a designation that in order to fulfill its function as a trade mark must be clear, precise, complete in itself, easily accessible, understandable, fixed and objective. However, while analyzing the distinctiveness of the applied trade mark in concreto, the PPO stressed that, according to settled case-law, the essential function of a trade mark is to guarantee to the consumer or end user the identity of the origin of the designated goods or designated services, by allwowing him to distinguish the goods or services from the goods or services of different origin. The goal of distinctiveness of a trade mark is to provide a given sign with such features that in the minds of market players they will clearly indicate that the product (or service) marked in this way is derived from the specific entity. Therefore, the attention sould be paid to the customary use of the trade mark, as a designation of origin in the specific sectors, as well as the perception of relevant consumers. In the opinion of the PPO when it comes to color per se, the existence of distinctiveness (without any prior use) is possible only in exceptional circumstances, in particular, when the number of goods or services for which the trade mark was applied for is very limited and the relevant market is very specific. Those conditions must be interpreted in the light of the public interest, which is based on the fact that the availability of colors cannot be unduly limited for all other entrepreneurs. The PPO noted that the modern technology allows to generate an almost infinite number of shades of each color, but in assessing whether they differ from each other, one should take into the perception of a relevant group, and therefore the average consumer. The number of colors that people are able to actually identify, is small, therefore the number of colors available as potential trade marks that would allow for distinguishing the goods had to be regarded as very limited. Moreover, the market for mobile services is not narrow and specific. Such market does not only cover telecom operators, but it is a collection of current and potential buyers of a product or service, respectively, its size depends on the number of buyers that express interest in all products, with an adequate income and availability of products for purchase. Market size is a characteristic that describes the quantitative state of the market at a given time in number of consumers (users) of a given type of goods or services. The PPO stated that the scale of Pantone, as the RAL or CMYK scales, is a very precise tool used to describe the color, but little practical from the standpoint of conditions of a normal trade and market turnover. The description of the Pantone color will not be a sufficient indication for the average consumer. The PPO also decided that less than four years (the company started its operation in 2007, and market survey evidence was conducted in 2011) could not be considered as a sufficient period to establish that the sign was in long-term use. In the context of proving that the sign has acquired secondary meaning, such time was certainly too short. PLAY Brand Management filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 October 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1378/13 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the PPO properly examined all the evidence material and properly justified its decision. The VAC as the PPO relied on the opinion of legal commentators and the so-called “color depletion/exhaustion” theory. According to this concept, the number of colors that the human eye is able to recognize is small and limited. Therefore, none of the colors should be subject to anyone’s “ownership”, or generally speaking – the exclusive right, and these colors should be keept in the public domain, and therefore freely available for all entrepreneurs. The theory of shades’ confusion support the first one. The second provides that human perception is so limited that the average consumer is not able to distinguish between a large number of shades of different colors. Applying both theories to present commercial realities it should be borne in mind that the majority of trade marks exists in an environment where decisions on the purchase of goods or use of services are made hastily, without much hesitation on the part of consumers. It is difficult to expect that consumers will conduct an analysis and comparison of similar shades of color, and on this basis, they will be associating the product with its origin. The Court also agreed that the acquired distinctiveness has not been proven. Surveys were conducted in a group consisting of 1000 respondents who use mobile phones and thus who should have knowledge about the market and mobile network operators. However, these people differently responded to the two questions: i) with which mobile operators’ brands do they associate the color, and ii) with which brands do they associate the color.
For the first question, 59% of respondents indicated PLAY as the operator, and only 11% respondents of the same group associated the color with PLAY while answering the second question, although the results should be concurrent, because the second question has not been addressed to random group of people, but a group of people who use mobile services. PLAY Brand Management filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 March 2015 II GSK 371/14 dismissed it.

E-signature, case I OPS 10/13

March 27th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 12 May 2014 case file I OPS 10/13 held that the current legal status of administrative court proceedings, as defined in Article 46 § 1 pt. 4 of the Polish Act on the Law on proceedings before administrative courts – PBAC – (in Polish: Prawo o postępowaniu przed sądami administracyjnymi) of 30 August 2002, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 153, item 1270, with subsequent amendments, does not allow for filing to a court a letter that is only bearing an electronic signature of a party. Such letters must bear handwritten signature. This includes a situation of filing documents through public administration body, by means of electronic communication.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2803/14

March 20th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark PHYTOLYZIN R-195394. The request was filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath, the owner of the earlier International trade mark registration LyCin IR-813677. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 November 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 790/12 dismissed a complaint filed against this decision, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 July 2014 case file II GSK 492/13 dismissed a cassation complaint filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath.

On November 2014, Mr Rath filed before the Supreme Administrative Court a request for the annulment of previous proceedings, and a motion to reopen the proceedings and to issue an award of costs in accordance with prescribed procedure and also submitted as a supplement to the cassation complaint the decision of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market of March 2013 on invalidity of the trade mark PHYTOLIZIN along with its certified translation into Polish. Mr Rath argued that the proceeding should be deemed by the Court as invalid because as the representative of the trademark owner appeared an attorney who submitted at the hearing a substitution of PoA as signed of July 2014. However, the power of attorney was invalid, because it was issued on behalf of another company, which was not a party to the proceedings.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 case file II GSK 2803/14 rejected the request and held that such motion is allowed if a party does not have the capacity and standing to bring proceedings or was not properly represented or if as a result of violations of the law was deprived of possible actions. However, the reopening cannot be requested if, before the judgment becomes final the inability to act ceased, the lack of proper representation was raised by way of objection, or a party has confirmed all procedural actions. These pleas and arguments for reopening, however, did not apply to Mr Rath. The argument for reopening of the proceedings was based on lack of adequate representation refered to the representation of the trade mark owner, not Mr Rath, and such a request may only be raised by a party that was not properly represented.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2037/13

February 23rd, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company FARMINA Sp. z o.o. filed before the Polish Patent Office a notice of opposition to the final decision on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark FARMONA Waliczek R-190461 registered for goods in Classes 3 and 5. Farmina argued that the trade mark FARMONA Waliczek is similar to its word trade mark FARMINA R-98950 also registered for goods in Classes 3 and 5. Laboratorium Kosmetyków Naturalnych FARMONA Sp. z o.o., the owner of a contested registration, argued that both signs are different, and as such there is no likelihood of confusion. FARMONA Sp. z o.o. also requested the PPO to decided on the lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark FARMINA R-98950 for goods in Class 3. In its letter of May 2010, FARMONA withdrew all previous arguments made by a former attorney in the case and has requested the PPO not to take into the account of all the evidence submitted. FARMONA argued that the goods are not similar, and from the range of over 300 prodcts, only 3 are distibuted in pharmacies, but only in those who have a cosmetic department. FARMONA argued that the parties operate in other industries. FARMONA Waliczek is engaged in the production of natural cosmetics offering a series of body care products, facial hair, as well as professional cosmetics for beauty salons and spas. FARMINA, however, claims to be a producer of drugs.

FARMINA argued that the PPO should dismiss the request to decide on the lapse of the trade mark. The Company claimed that not only it produces goods for pharmaceutical purposes, but also products for the purposes of care, which according to some people may belong to Class 5 of the Nice Classification. FARMINA stated that it uses its trade mark for the goods associated with personal care such as soaps, gels, creams, cosmetics and hair care products. The Comapny indicated that, in principle, all cosmetics contain ingredients that cause skin regeneration and it is debatable whether or not they should be considered as therapeutic agents or care products. The Opponent also argued that, due to the fact that it uses the trade mark FARMINA for goods similar or complementary to the perfumery products, such use should be considered as use of that mark for goods in Class 3 of the Nice Classification.

The Polish Patent Office noted that the right of protection for a trademark may not be invalidated on a sole ground that the trademark is similar to an earlier trademark, where the latter has not been genuinely used. This argument that the sign has not been genuinely used may only be raised when accompanied by a request for declaring the right of protection lapsed. The case should be examined jointly with the request for invalidation. The PPO decided that the trade mark FARMINA was not genuinely used for perfumery and ruled that the right of protection lapsed as of November 2002. In the opinion of the PPO, the compared trade marks had to be regarded as similar as the dominant elements in the signs are verbal elements FARMINA and FARMONA. These are words of the same length, consisting of the same number of syllables, and which contain the same beginning and ending. These words differ only in the fifth letter. The similarities are not excluded by the use of another verbal element, the word “Waliczek”, because this element is the name of the owner of the company, thus, this word refers in its content to the information that may suggest the average person, a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, the licensee, or the founder of the company, etc. The PPO invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark FARMONA Waliczek for the following products in Class 5: antisepsis, balms for medical purposes, biological preparations for medical purposes, enzymes for pharmaceutical purposes, enzymes for medical purposes, tea with herbs, medicinal ointments for pharmaceutical use, preparations with microelements for humans and animals, tinctures for medical purposes, dietetic beverages for medicinal purposes, oils for medicinal purposes, analgesics, laxatives, vitamin supplements, extracts for medicinal purposes, medicinal herbs, candies medicinal purposes, syrups for medical use, dietetic foods for medicinal purposes, gelatin for medical purposes. Both companies filed complaints against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 April 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 2177/12 joined the cases in one proceeding. The Court found no reason to revoke the decision of the Polish Paten Office, and dismissed both complaints. The VAC held, inter alia, that according to the established legal doctrine (opinions presented by Professor M. Kępiński in “Niebezpieczeństwo wprowadzenia w błąd odbiorców co do źródła pochodzenia towarów w prawie znaków towarowych”, published in Zeszyty Naukowe UJ 28/1982, pp. 17,18), in the short signs (words including up to 5 letters), just one letter difference should exclude the similarity. For the signs of the average length (up to 8 characters) at least 2 letters should be different to decide on dissimilarity. Again, both companies filed cassation complaints.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of II GSK 2037/13 dismissed both.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2062/13

January 30th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

Transformation and economic changes in Poland after 1990 left a lot of problems in the case of trademarks that belong to the state-owned enterprises. The case described below is one of many examples.

PPHU HERBAPOL spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the word-figurative trade mark Herbapol Wrocław R-179901 that was registered for Wrocławskie Zakłady Zielarskie HERBAPOL Spółka Akcyjna for goods in Classes 3, 5, 30, 31 and 32. PPHU HERBAPOL argued that the questioned registration was applied for in bad faith and this sign is similar or identical to registration owned by PPHU HERBAPOL such as the word trade mark HERBAPOL R-00312 or the word-figurative trade mark HERBAPOL R-00356. PPHU HERBAPOL stressed that the goods are identical, are intended for the same consumers, on the same territory. The Company argued that according to the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law and regulations governing the use of Herbapol collective trade marks, the right to use this sign should be entitled only to PPHU HERBAPOL, and all affiliated entities, which also include HERBAPOL S.A., and the registration of an individual trade mark identical or similar to a collective trade mark Herbapol may only be made for the benefit of the PPHU HERBAPOL. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. obtained the right of protection “illegally”. It was emphasized that the right for the protection of the collective trade mark does not grant exclusivity to use the sign to one entity, because it is reserved for the organization with the right to its use by the organization and all of its affiliated entities. HERBAPOL S.A. is both a shareholder of PPHU HERBAPOL and the entity authorized to use the collective trade mark. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. was fully aware that its trade mark application was made without the knowledge and consent of PPHU HERBAPOL, which infringed PPHU HERBAPOL’s right of protection for the collective trade marks.

HERBAPOL S.A. requested the PPO to dismiss the case. The Company presented a genealogy of the transformation of the state owned company that was originally the sole owner of the Herbapol trade mark, and argued that PPHU HERBAPOL derives its priority to Herbapol sign “secondarily”. In this context, and bearing in mind that PPHU HERBAPOL does use the sign and not produce any goods under the name Herbapol, PPHU HERBAPOL is not the legal successor of the state enterprise. Consequently, HERBAPOL S.A. argued that PPHU HERBAPOL lacks of legal interest in seeking the invalidation of the disputed right of protection, and PPHU HERBAPOL did not object to the use of questioned sign in five years.

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO decided inter alia that compared signs are similar in all three aspects, and the goods are identical or similar. HERBAPOL S.A. filed a complaint against this decision and argued that currently, between all companies included in PPHU HERBAPOL, there are no capital ties, on the contrary, they are in the classic competitive relationship, therefore as of the 1993/1994 they all began to use geographical designation like Wrocław, Poznań or Lublin alongside the sign Herbapol. Since then, HERBAPOL S.A. incurred large spending on advertising of its products thus the recipients of its products were able to distinguish the mark from other manufacturers that used the sign Herbapol. For these reasons, the HERBAPOL S.A. believed that its designation obtained independent and individual market position. HERBAPOL S.A. also argued that it has acquried the right to use Herbapol sign before PPHU HERBAPOL, because since 1959, it has used the word Herbapol in the company name. The state owned company Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Zielarskiego “Herbapol” in Warsaw applied for the right of protection for Herbapol trade mark in 1974, however in 1982 the company was dissolved and in its place another entity was created. Therefore, the right of protection has expired in 1984. PPHU HERBAPOL was founded in 1989 and in the same year the Company requested the Polish Patent Office to change the owner of all Herbapol trade marks in the Register kept by the PPO. From the foregoing, HERBAPOL S.A. brought the conclusion that the right to Herbapol sign should not derived by PPHU HERBAPOL from the “material priority”, but its right has kind of secondary nature.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 June 2014 case file VI SA/Wa 101/13 dimissed the complaint and ruled that because this case involved a collective trade mark, the Court had to indicate the nature of this type of sign. The main conclusion is that the right to collective trade mark belongs to the organization, but the organization’s affiliated entities are entitled to use the sign. The VAC cited recent judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 27 June 2007 case file II GSK 83/07 in which the SAC held that a collective trade mark serves many entities, although the right of protection is granted for a specific organization. The right to a trade and the right to use it separated. This institution should be distinguished from the joint right of protection, which is related to an individual trade mark, where such sign is intended for concurrent use by several undertakings who have jointly applied for the protection. In other words, the right of protection for a collective trademark does not grant exclusive rights to the use the sign by a single entity, but it’s owned by one organization, and it can be used by many entities associated in this organization. However, only the organization may be awarded the right, sell it, waive this right or request a change in the Register. Therefore, HERBAPOL S.A. infringed on registrations owned by PPHU HERBAPOL. With regard to the argument that PPHU HERBAPOL was not genuinely using the Herbapol collective trade mark, the Court noted that the organization may independently use the collective trade mark, however, the use of such sign only by entities affiliated also fulfills the conditions of trade mark use.

HERBAPOL S.A. filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 case file II GSK 2062/13 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1096/13

December 8th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

Dansk Supermarked A/S, the owner of word trade marks NETTO and word-figurate trade mark NETTO R-114747 filed to the Polish Patenet Office a notice of opposition to the final decision on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark NETO R-227788 that was registered for the goods in Classes 7, 11, 19, 20, 21 and services in Classes 35 and 42. The opponent pointed out that the services in Class 35 are identical to these that NETTO trade marks were registered for, and are directed to similar consumers through similar channels. Furthermore, the services in Class 35 are complementary to the goods and services from other classes. Dansk Supermarked A/S also argued that the compared trade marks are very similar. The dominant element of the sign in question is the word “NETO”, which is crucial for the perception of the character, and the figurative element is of secondary importance. The word “NETO” is entirely contained in the opposing signs, therefore the compared trade marks are “substantially similar” and that the average consumer may mistakenly associate the signs, and there is a real risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods and services.

The owner, Polish company Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o., argued that the chain stores NETTO offer both food and industrial goods, and in this case, the opposing sign is used for the determination of the store itself or chain of stores. In contrast, the disputed mark is used to designate the goods.

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO found that trade marks at issue are similar, and pointed out that all the goods in Classes 7, 11, 19, 20 and 21, are covered by the services included in class 35, and relate to the sale of these goods. Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 19 December 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1808/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the term “providing a service” or “service” itself have no material content in the sense that the sign may be placed only on the elements used to provide a particular service, while a trade mark can be assigned to the goods, due to their material nature, and the consumer may directly related to the goods to which a sign is assigned. The similarity of the goods/services happens when the goods (services) covered by the earlier mark and the goods (services) covered by the later mark have the same purpose and method of use. Galicja Tomaszek sp. z o.o. filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 September 2014 case file II GSK 1096/13 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 582/13

June 26th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 1 February 2007, SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS GmbH filed before the Polish Patent Office an opposition against the grant of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark lody SMYK NORDiS R-174465 that was registered for the Polish company NORDIS Chłodnie Polskie Sp. z o.o.

R-174465

SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS, the owner of the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 registered inter alia for goods in Class 30 such as confectionery and sweets, argued that both signs are similar and may cause consumers’ confusion. The questioned registration was also an attempt to use the trade mark that was known on the market for more than twenty years, and which has won the recognition of customers thanks to significant financial and organizational expenditures. SMYK also alleged violation of the right to the company name.

R-151707

NORDIS argued that the compared signs and the goods are not similar and there is no chance for confusion of potential buyers. The Polish company had applied for this sign in May 2003, because it should serve as a continuation of the word-figurative trade marks SMYK NORDIS NORDIS R-93343 and SMYK R-93586 that both lapsed on July 2003. NORDIS had the right to use all signs with the word elements SMYK and NORDIS, because both lapsed trade marks became the bar for registrations of new similar or identical signs for other entities, for two years after the lapse.

R-93343

SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS replied that the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law do not afford the institution of “continuation” of trade marks, and the modified sign does not derive legal force from the earlier marks, and the owner cannot be entitled to rely on the law that no longer exists.

R-93586

In 2008, the PPO dismissed the opposition. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS decided to file a complaint, and the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 May 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2315/08 overturned the decision, and ruled that the PPO has made an invalid interpretation of the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law on the similarity of signs and the goods with regard to the likelihood of confusion. The Court found that the semantic analysis lead to the logical conclusion that the concept of the term “ice cream” falls within the term of “sweets”, and hence there exist homogeneity of goods bearing compared signs due to the fact that ice cream are goods of “the same kind” as sweets. The homogeneity of goods follows from the semantic analysis of the concepts and the nature of the goods such as “ice cream” (narrower term) and “sweets” (broader term). The VAC also noted that the word element SMYK that is present in both signs, is also endowed with a similar graphics. The case went back to the PPO for further reconsideration.

On 3 August 2009, NORDIS Chłodnie Polskie Sp. z o.o. requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 in part for goods in Class 30, becuse SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS failed to put this sign in genuine use on the Polish territory. SMYK argued that its trade mark was present on the market among others on candies available in SMYK’s stores that are located in big malls.

On December 2009, the Polish Patent Office decided that the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark SMYK R-151707 lapsed as of 18 December 2008 in part for goods in Class 30 such as confectionery except chocolate and chocolate products, and candy except chocolate and chocolate products. The PPO also dismissed the opposition against the grant of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark lody SMYK NORDiS R-174465. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 November 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 397/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that there was no violation of the company name, because at the time the disputed trade mark was applied, there was no conflict of interest between both parties, because the scope of activities of the two companies was different. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS has not shown that the registration will disrupt the function of the name of its company, NORDIS manufactures ice cream, while SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS is a producer of items for children, including toys and clothes and was never engaged in the production or sale of ice cream, moreover, the proceedings revealed that NORDIS does not use the sign in a possible colliding area. The Court agreed with the PPO that the trade mark was not applied contrary to law, public order or morality, because this provision, as it was aptly pointed by the PPO, refers to the content or form of how the applied sign is represented. Such contradiction lies in the violation of moral norms, ethics and customs adopted in business. It occurs primarily in the signs of vulgar or offensive content or form. The VAC noted that SMYK might have confused this regulation it with another institution i.e. bad faith. Legal provisions relating to signs applied in bad faith and signs which are contrary to public policy or morality that are included in the Polish Industrial Property Law are separate premises examined in the trade mark application or invalidation proceedings. The Court emphasized that the first condition is associated with the behavior of the applicant, and the second with the sign. SMYK GLOBAL ASSETS filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 May 2014 case file II GSK 582/13 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1885/12

June 10th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polskie Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie (Polish Tatra Society) requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the the word-figurative trade mark POL.TOW.TATRZAŃSKIE 1873 R-101381 owned by Zarząd Główny Polskiego Towarzystwa Turystyczno-Krajoznawczego (Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society). PTT argued that in 1994, the PTTK unlawfully applied for the trade mark in question. It was plagiarized traditional organizational badge of the PTT and at the same time a membership badge and a badge of honor of that Society. This organizational badge with the inscription “Pol. Tow. Tatra of 1873” and the image of chamois, was established in 1922. After the II World War, the Society ceased to function, but it has been reactivated in 1981 in times of Polish People’s Republic. The badge was re-established by the decision of the Chairman of the Committee on Youth and Sports of October 1990 issued according to the provisions of the Polish Act of 21 December 1978 on badges and uniforms, as a PTT’s badge. PTTK argued that the decision was challenged before the administrative bodies and courts.

R-101381

The PPO adjourned the proceedings until the Supreme Administrative Court in its final judgment of 2008 dismissed the cassation complaint against the decision of the Minister of Economy that refused to annull the decision of the Chairman of the Committee for Youth and Physical Culture of October 1990. The PPO invalidated the right of protection. PTTK filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 5 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 515/12 annulled the contested decision, and ruled it unenforceable. The Court held that the legal basis for invalidation of the trade mark were the provisions of the Article 8 point 5 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. Under this regulation, the registration of a sign which contains the name or crest of the Polish voivodeship, city or town, a reproduction of a Polish order, badge of honor and a military badge or sign, is unacceptable. Where justified, such a sign may be registered following approval by the competent authority state or the relevant organizational unit. In the filing date for registration of the invalidated trade mark, the Polish Act of 21 December 1978 on badges and uniforms was in force. Article 2 of that Act established three types of badges: a badge of honor, an organizational badge and an occasional badge. There was no doubt for the Court that the PTT has established an organizational badge. Clearly, it was not a badge of honor, because the PTT has not preserved the procedures required for its establishment. In turn, Article 8 point 5 of the TMA introduces inadmissible registration of a sign containing a badge of honor, not organizational badges. The VAC ruled that the PPO has violated the substantive law while deciding this case. PTT filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 May 2014 case file II GSK 1885/12 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 244/13

May 22nd, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

On March 2008, the Polish Patent Office has granted to the Politechnika Wrocławska (Wrocław University of Technology) the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark e e-Informatica R-204692, for goods and services in Classes 9, 16, 18, 25, 35, 41 and 42.

R-204692

Mr Piotr Chlebowski filed the opposition against the decision of the PPO, and argued that he works on the market (in business) under the business pseudonym Informatica, and has been using that term as a company name that was entered in the register of business activity in 2003. He also uses that name within “a website for his Internet domain”. The term Informatica is also used by Mr Chlebowski on business cards, in advertising, invoices and stamps. He argued that the questioned trade mark also violates his personal rights, because he has started the company under the name Informatica. In addition, he also enjoys the copyright to the term “Informatica”, and the use of that name by the Politechnika Wrocławska is also contrary to regulations provided in the Polish Act on Combating Unfair Competition.

Politechnika Wrocławska requested the PPO to dismiss the opposition and argued that the term Informatica cannot be deemed as personal or economic right or interest. There is no unfair competition because the name Informatica does not lead to consumers’ confusion as to the producer of goods or services.

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition. The PPO ruled the Mr Chlebowski is entitled to his full company name, not only to the term Informatica, and the provisions of the Polish Civil Code raised by the opponent relate to the violation of personal interests, and therefore not personal rights. However, the the mere fact that someone applied for a trade mark consisting of a part of the name of another company is not yet an obstacle to the registration. It is required that the registration and use of the trade mark constitutes a violation of the right to the company name. The average consumer will considers the designation as descriptive for the goods and services related to information technology. However, the figurative element – the first letter “e” – plays the dominant role in the perception of the whole trade mark. The registration of a domain name informatica.pl does not create exclusive property rights that are effective against all (erga omnes – absolute rights). The right to use an Internet domain name is the “relative right” based on the contractual obligation that is effective only with respect to the domain registrar. Mr Chlebowski filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 September 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 917/12 dismissed it, and Mr Chlebowski decided to file a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 April 2014 case file II GSK 244/13 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC held that a name of enterprise (business or company) belongs to the category of personal and property rights, which are subject to legal protection, and that these rights may be infringed by the use of the trade mark, because the two signs (the company’s name and a trademark) both identify the company. The SAC noted that the VAC relied on provision of the Polish Commercial Code that for many years were no longer in force, and incorrectly stated that Mr Chlebowski, as a natural person conducting his business activities, is not entitled to the company name. While the the Polish legislature has regulated in the Civil Code in Section III titled “Entrepreneurs and their designation” the right to the company name, which is also entitled to an entrepreneur who is a natural person. Thus, in this case occurred primarily a conflict of a right to the company name and the right of protection for a trade mark. The Supreme Administrative Court stated in its previous case-law, that the name of a company (the firm) is used to identify and differentiate entities in legal and economic transactions. It also serves a carrier of certain information about the characteristics and qualities of their activities. Unauthorized interference with the functions of the company name infringes the right to the name. This infringement is not prejudiced by registration of a trade mark that is identical or similar to the name of another company. Exclusive rights to the company name (firm) are not absolute. Their limits are territorial and objective and are based on actual activity of an entity that uses a given name. Only within these limits a collisions between identical or similar company name and trademark may occur. If different fields of business activities of a person (legal or natural) that is entitled to the company name and the proprietor of a trade mark, do not lead to consumers’ confusion with regard to the identity of companies, or such proprietor of the later trade mark is not using the reputation associated with earlier (identical or similar) company name, it is difficult to talk about the collision of these two rights, and consequently an infringement of an earlier right to the company name by the later mark (see: “Trade mark law, case II GSK 31/06” and “Trade mark law, case II GSK 406/08“). Applying these considerations to the present case, the SAC ruled that the VAC should reconsider and establish such facts as from which time Mr Chlebowski had acted in the course of trade under the company, using in addition to his surname a designation Informatica, what was the scope and of that activity and whether there is a risk of consumers’ confusion as to the identity of his company and the owner of a disputed trade mark. As it was already established in the case-law of Polish administrative courts, while finding an infringement of personal or property rights of third parties by a trade mark registration, it does not matter whether there are specific facts of confusion in trade, i.e. consumers’ confusion as to the identity of the company and the sign. It is enough to determine the potential possibility (likelihood) of such confusion, that in case of companies carrying identical or convergent activities, seems inevitable (see the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 30 March 2006 case file II GSK 3/06, published in electronic database LEX, under the no. 197239). While considering this case, the VAC should also pay attention to the unified position of both the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court expressed in the case law that in case of a collision between a company name and an applied and/or registered trade mark, the priority is given to the earlier right.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 146/13

May 7th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

On September 2007, Mr Jarosław Spychała applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for the word trade mark LEGO-LOGOS Z-330692 for services in Classes 35, 36 and 41. The PPO informed the applicant that his trade mark is similar to series of signs registered and owned by LEGO Juris A/S. Mr Spychała argued that the applied sign is the neologism derived from the ancient Greek language, and the term LEGO simply means “to read, think or speak”, and the term LOGOS means “learning” in a broad sense. In academic and education circles the term LEGO-LOGOS is associated with a particular form of education in philosophy and in building moral attitudes. The mark is directed at people who wish to explore philosophy and knowledge.

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection because the applied trade mark was similar to the word trade mark LEGO R-72961 that was registered with an earlier priority for almost similar services. Mr Spychała filed a complaint against this decision and argued that the fact that compared signs share the same identical word element is not sufficient to refuse the protection for the later trade mark. The most important was the subject of the applied trade mark – a philosophical concept developed by the applicant and its popularization.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1201/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court noted that the PPO properly made the comparison of goods and services and did not erred in comparison of both signs. The VAC agreed with the PPO that the word element LEGO can also mean to fold or to assemble, and thus relate to specific products – blocks that are marked by registered trademarks of LEGO Juris A/S. The Court pointed out that the applicant while describing the project of philosophical education under the name LEGO-LOGOS has also showed that he drew the expression of LEGO from Danish language. Regardless of what language (Ancient Greek or Danish) the dominant element LEGO was taken, it is a word that does not exist in the Polish language. Its importance in ancient Greek or Danish is not understandable for the average Polish recipient of goods or services. It may be related to the characteristics of goods – just blocks marked with this sign. Mr Spychała filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 March 2014 case file II GSK 146/13 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2005/12

April 8th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition filed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company against the decision on the grant of the right of protection for the word trade mark TEFAPAK R-199130 that was applied for the Polish company SINOGRAF S.A.

E.I. du Pont argued that the sign TEFAPAK is similar to its trade mark TEFLON R-49573 that was registered in Poland in 1968, and to its CTM TEFLON that was registered in 1996. According to the US company, the compared goods are identical or similar, and the signs share the same prefix TEF, which could lead to consumers’ confusion.

SINOGRAF S.A. requested the PPO to dismiss the opposition, and argued that the goods are directed to competent consumers of the proper level of technical knowledge, who have knowledge and experience in the field of materials, and thus much greater possibility of distinguishing different trade marks than the average recipient.

The PPO dismissed the opposition and found that the trade marks at issue are not similar, since they have significantly different overall impression both in the the visual and aural aspects. The PPO noted that there is no likelihood of confusion and it could not include the likelihood of association, because the goods are targeted to specialized recipients. E.I. du Pont filed a compliant against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 301/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the Polish Patent Office correctly established all circumstances of the case. The VAC agreed that the goods are identical or similar, however, the Court did not agree with the argument that the compared signs are similar to the extent that could lead to likelihood of confusion. In the opinion of the Court, the trade mark are not similar, so arguments about the use of someone else’s reputation and the reputation of the trade mark can not be justified. Dissimilar signs can not induce associations of customers, so there can be no conscious imitation and benefit from someone else’s reputation. E.I. du Pont filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Adminitrative Court in its judgment of 20 March 2014 case file II GSK 2005/12 dismissed it.

Procedural law, case II GSK 248/14

February 26th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1542/12

February 17th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

R-211213

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

CTM no. 001821651

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

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

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

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1500/12

January 31st, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

The German company Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Co. oHG filed before the Polish Patent Office a request to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for the word trade mark ELDENA R-111776 registered for Piotr Maciejec and Robert Hrebowicz for goods in Class 3 such as cosmetics, soaps, perfumery, deodorants, bath lotions. Aldi Einkauf interpreted its legal interest from the provisions of the Polish Constitution and the Polish Act on Freedom of Economic Activity (in Polish: ustawa o swobodzie dzialalnosci gospodarczej), and argued that the owners did not genuinely used their trade mark for 5 years. As the owner of the word CTM ELDENA No. 003430188, Aldi also noted that the owners of the Polish registration opposed the use of Aldi’s sign in Poland. Mr Maciejewiec and Hrebowicz questioned the legal interest of the applicant claiming that the Aldi has not registered its business in Poland. The company Aldi sp. z o.o. from Chorzów was established and registered in the National Court Register (register of entrepreneurs) on January 2006, and the first stores were opened on 25 February 2008. Therefore, assuming that the company Aldi sp. z o.o. is kind of a representative of the applicant on the Polish territory, the beginning date to establish legal interest of Aldi Einkauf should be the start date of sale of the applicant’s products, as it happened on 25 February 2008. Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz deemed Aldi’s request as premature due to the fact that in the period from 14 January 2005 to 25 February 2008, the disputed right of protection did not restrict the applicant’s activities in Poland, and they decided not to discuss with the arguments on the lack of genuine use, nor to provide any evidence in this matter. Aldi Einkauf argued that it received a cease and desist letter from the owners of the questioned trade mark, and provided evidence that the Polish company Aldi sp. z o.o. is a licensee of the CTM ELDENA.

The Polish Patent Office decided on the lapse of the right of protection. The PPO ruled that Aldi Einkauf proved its legal interest to request for the lapse of the right of protection for the mark at issue, because this sign was a restriction on conduct of Aldis’s business, in which the Company intended to use the designation ELDENA. Aldi submitted the advertising prospect of Aldi’s stores in Poland from 2008, with the photos of a lotion and soaps marked with ELDENA sign, as the evidence of an intention to use the CTM No. 003430188 on the Polish market. The PPO ruled that Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz did not provide any evidence on genuine use of their trade mark. They decided to file a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 April 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 201/12 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the “collision” of two trade mark rights was sufficient to establish the existence of a legal interest to file a request for the lapse of the right of protection. In its essence, the legal interest (locus standi) lies in overlapping of legal spheres of two or more entities, in such a way that the right held by one entity interferes with the full enjoyment of the rights held by another entity.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 January 2014 case file II GSK 1500/12 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by Mr Maciejewiec and Mr Hrebowicz.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1539/11

October 28th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

On January 2007, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark JAVART R-184566, applied for JAVART Spółka z o.o. form Warsaw, for goods in Class 1 services in Class 35 and 42.

R-184566

Oracle America, Inc., the owner of the trade marks JAVASCRIPT R-110075, JAVA COMPATIBILE R-112620, JAVA DEVELOPER CONFERENCE R-116591, 100% PURE JAVA R-125493, intended to designate goods such as computer software, electronic equipment and/or services related to these goods, filed an opposition. Oracle argued that opposed trade marks are similar and used to designate identical or similar goods and services, which may lead to consumer confusion. JAVART argued that the opposition should be dismissed. The PPO invalidated the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark JAVART R-184566 and decided that JAVA trade marks are known by a significant part of computer users, including developers around the world, also in Poland, and as such enjoy a worldwide reputation for software.

R-125493

JAVART filed a complaint against this decision, but the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 20 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 111/10 dismissed it. JAVART decided to file a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 November 2012 case file II GSK 1539/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly found that the applicant may gain unfair advantage through the use of the sign JAVART.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 270/12

September 24th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company INTERKOBO sp. z o.o., the owner of word trade mark MYBABY R-148924 registered for goods in Class 28 such as games, toys, sporting goods, requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate in part the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark MY SWEET BABY R-187751 registered for goods in Classes 12, 20, 25 and 28, and owned by PEXIM Artur Kamiński. INTERKOBO claimed high recognition of the MYBABY reputed trade mark among buyers of children’s toys and a high degree of similarity between the goods. The company noted that since 15 years it is one of the largest importers of toys in Poland. PEXIM argued that its trade mark is registered in class 28 for goods such as children’s toys – dolls, doll beds, cradles for dolls, doll furniture, doll clothing. PEXIM operates since 15 June 2001, and its activity is the manufacture of wicker and wood, which are exported. Wickerworks are made for young children. These are strollers, cribs and miniatures of these products as toys for children. The products are bearing a trade mark and a company name, therefore, the risk of confusion is excluded.

R-187751

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection in part of goods in Class 28. The PPO ruled that both trade marks are used to designate similar goods. The dominant element in both signs is the word baby, because it is a base or core to the other words, and in particular, their meanings so it shows that the these trade marks have a similar range of meaning, therefore there is a high risk of association by the public between the marks, and the likelihood that the consumer may be confused as to the origin of goods. PEXIM filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1407/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the PPO properly carried out the proceedings and correctly interpreted the law. According to the Court there was homogenity of goods in Class 28, and even the identity of the goods, because the Nice Classification was subject to change over the years, but the changes did not have any historically impact on the signs and the goods offered. The difference of one word that occured in the compared signs was so unimportant that it did not make them different enough to rule out the risk of confusion in the ordinary course of trade. PEXIM filed a cassation complaint, and additionally, a motion to stay the execution of the decision. The Company argued that the contested decision involves very high cost and its implementation would include a very serious consequences for its economic activity, and thus would cause irreparable consequences and expose the company to serious losses.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 27 July 2013 case file II GSK 270/12 dismissed the motion. The SAC ruled that PEXIM, despite its obligation to submit such evidence, has not shown the existence of statutory grounds that would allow to stay the execution of the contested decision. According to the Court, PEXIM only claimed very serious and irreparable consequences and big losses. Meanwhile, while citing in support of the motion specified circumstances, the Company should be able to substantiate their occurrence, thus going beyond the vague and unsubstantiated claims. By pointing to difficulties to reverse the effects of the contested decision, PEXIM did not substantiate the existence of conditions justifying the stay of execution. Therefore, the Court had no chances for the objective assessment. The arguments that the stay of execution of the decision does not endanger the health or human life, and it is not associated with exposure to the national economy from heavy losses, as well as it does not affect the party’s interest, were during the assessment of the motion irrelevant, since it is not a ground for staying the execution that is provided for in the Polish Law on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts. The SAC held that a reference to likely allegations that were raised in the cassation complaint cannot determine the stay, since at this stage it would be pointless and premature. The Court also noted that the order to stay the execution can be amended or repealed at any time if circumstances of the case change. The party seeking for the amendment or repeal of a decision or action, should demonstrate such a change of circumstances that would make its request justifiable and well-founded.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 912/12

September 13th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

Zino Davidoff SA filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of the right of protection for the word trade mark SILVER SHOW R-199238 applied for by Firma Handlowa A&S PARFUME FACTORY Marek Asenkowicz and registered for goods in Class 3 such as perfumery. Zino Davidoff SA argued that the trade mark in question is similar to its series of International registrations such as SILVER-SHADOW IR-0660174, SILVER SHADOW IR-0853401 and SILVER SHADOW IR-0879527. The compared signs are similar in verbal, aural and semantic aspects.

The PPO found that the compared signs are used to designate the goods of the same type, i.e. perfumes and various cosmetics, however the similarity of goods was not disputed by the parties. The PPO decided that there are no similarities between trade marks that would justify the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods. The PPO ruled that a leaflet called “alternative scents” and the fact that perfume packaging produced by A&S PARFUME FACTORY were alike to the other well-known brands, were not sufficient evidence to decide on bad faith application. Zino Davidoff SA filed a complaint against this decision. The Company noted inter alia that the PPO wrongly justified its decision by citing a different trade mark owned by Firma Handlowa A&S PARFUME FACTORY Marek Asenkowicz.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 January 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1850/11 dismissed the complaint. The VAC fully agreed with the PPO’s findings. The Court acknowledged that the questioned decision included mistakes with regard to trade marks and their registration numbers which could point to automatic preparation of the decision’s text, however, such errors had no significant impact on the outcome of the case. Zino Davidoff SA filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 September 2013 case file II GSK 912/12 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2323/11

July 30th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

CARTIER International AG requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark CHATIER ROSS R-190192 registered for Firma Handlowa A & S PARFUME FACTORY Marek Asenkowicz, for goods in Class 03 such as perfumes products, toilet water, lavender water, colognes, deodorants for personal use. CARTIER claimed that the contested registration infringes on its company name and the word-figurative trade mark CARTIER R-59579. CHATIER ROSS is detrimental to the reputation of CARTIER’s signs and leads to a weakening of their attractiveness and may cause the loss of trust among buyers of CARTIER’s products.

R-59579

A & S argued that trade marks in this case are not similar both visually and semantically, because the word “chatier” in French means “smooth/polished” and the word “Cartier” indicates the manufacturer. The Polish company cited the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 22 October 2004 case file GSK 811/04 concerning the similarity of the trade marks WELT and WEST IR-621660. A & S also noted that the documents submitted by CARTIER do not prove the reputation of the sign “Cartier”, and pointed to the differences in price of goods bearing both trade marks.

The Polish Patent Office found similarity both of goods and signs, and invalidated the contested registration. While analyzing the evidence on the reputation of the sign “Cartier”, the PPO took into account press articles on the position of the brand in the Polish market and the perception of the consumers. It was irrelevant that the parties use their trade marks to designate goods that differ significantly in price. The PPO ruled that the price of such goods may vary depending on the business strategy of the owner. A & S filed a complaint against such decision. It was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 6 July 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 867/11. A & S filed a cassation complaint, but the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 March 2013 case file II GSK 2323/11 dismissed it.

CARTIER International AG requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark CHATIER COOL MEN R-199458, and the PPO followed the request. A & S complaint was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 866/11, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 April 2013 case file II GSK 191/12 dismissed the cassation. The same outcome was in case of the invalidation of the right of protection of the word trade mark CHATIER PURL R-199457 that was owned by the A & S. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 6 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 865/11 dismissed the complaint against the decision of the PPO, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 April 2013 case file II GSK 97/12 dismissed the cassation.

Personal data protection, case II SA/Wa 152/13

July 29th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

Jerzy S. requested the Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) to issue a decision that would order Agora S.A., the owner of gazeta.pl website, to disclose IP addresses of a user, who under the nickname Marco wrote negative and defamatory comments regarding a sport article, that Jerzy S. published on gazeta.pl. This way Jerzy S. wanted to know real the name of Marco, in order to sue him or her for the infringement of personal rights based on the provisions of the Polish Civil Code. Jerze S. requested Agora to disclose such information, but the Company refused and cited provisions of Article 18(6) of the Polish Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services by Electronic Means – PSEM – (in Polish: ustwa o świadczeniu usług droga elektroniczną), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 144, item. 1204 with subsequent amendments.

Article 18
1. The service provider may process the following personal data of the service recipient necessary for entering in, designing contents, amending or terminating legal relationship between them:
1) service recipient’s surname and names ,
2) his/her PESEL number (Personal Identification Number),
3) his/her permanent residence address,
4) his/her address for correspondence, if it is different than the address referred to in point 3,
5) data used for verifying the service recipient’s electronic signature,
6) service recipient’s electronic addresses .
2. In order to effect contracts or other legal activity having been concluded with a service recipient, a service provider may process other data necessary due to nature (characteristics) of the service provided or way of its billing.
3. The service provider distinguishes and marks those data from among the data referred to in paragraph 2, as such being necessary for providing services by electronic means in accordance with art. 22 paragraph 1.
4. The service provider may process, upon consent of s service recipient and for the purposes set forth in art. 19 paragraph 2 point 2, other data concerning the service recipient, which are not necessary for providing service by electronic means.
5. The service provider may process the following data describing the way of using the service provided by electronic means by a service recipient (traffic data):
1) denotations identifying the service recipient assigned on the basis of the data referred to in paragraph 1,
2) denotations identifying the telecommunication network terminal or a teleinformation system, which have been used by a service recipient,
3) information about commencement, termination and a range of every usage of the service provided by electronic means,
4) information about using of the service provided by electronic means by a service recipient.
6. The service provider provides the information on data referred to in paragraphs 1 – 5 to the state authorities for the needs of legal proceedings carried on by them.

The Company argued that it is obliged to provide such information only to the state authorities. However, the GIODO ordered Agora to disclose requested IP addresses. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its order of 20 February 2013 case file II SA/Wa 153/13 suspended execution of the contested decision. The GIODO filed complaint against this order, but the Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 23 April 2013 I OZ 269/13 dismissed it.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 17 June 2013 case file II SA/Wa 153/13 dismissed the compliant filed by AGORA. The Court ruled that in this case the condition established in Article 25(1)(v) 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, was met.

Article 25
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.

Article 32
1. The data subject has a right to control the processing of his/her personal data contained in the filing systems, and in particular he/she has the right to:
1) obtain extensive information on whether such system exists and to establish the controller’s identity, the address of its seat and its full name, and in case the controller is a natural person to obtain his/her address and his/her full name,
2) obtain information as to the purpose, scope, and the means of processing of the data contained in the system,
3) obtain information since when his/her personal data are being processed and communication to him/her in an intelligible form of the content of the data,
4) obtain information as to the source of his/her personal data, unless the controller is obliged to keep it confidential as a state, trade or professional secrecy,
5) obtain information about the means in which the data are disclosed, and in particular about the recipients or categories of recipients of the data,
5a) obtain information about the prerequisites of taking the decision referred to in Article 26a paragraph 2,
6) demand the data to be completed, updated, rectified, temporally or permanently suspended or erased, in case they are not complete, outdated, untrue or collected with the violation of the act, or in case they are no longer required for the purpose for which they have been collected,
7) make a justified demand in writing, in cases referred to in Article 23 paragraph 1 point 4 and 5, for the blocking of the processing of his/her data, due to his/her particular situation,
8) object to the processing of his/her personal data in cases referred to in Article 23 paragraph 1 point 4 and 5, should the controller intend to process the data for marketing purposes or to object to the transfer of the data to another controller,

See also “Personal data protection, case II SA/Wa 2821/11“.

E-access to public information, case I OSK 175/13

May 25th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 October 2012 case file II SAB/Wa 245/12 ruled that official topographic maps that were created and are kept in the databases by the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography (GUGiK) are public information and must be made ​​available on the request of the creator of dobraulica.pl website. GUGiK filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 April 2013 case file I OSK 175/13 anulled the contested judgment and ruled that the VAC incorrectly applied provisions of law, because in this case, the law on Geodetic and Cartography should be used as a legal basis for deciding the issue of public information and re-use.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Personal data protection, case I OZ 850/12

January 20th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Inspector General for Personal Data Protection in its decisions of 1 April 2012 nos. DOLiS/DEC-318/12/23575, 23580, 23585 ordered a Polish company to disclose IP addresses of computers. This information was required in other proceedings. The company filed a complaint against this decision and requested the court to stay its execution.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its order of 14 August 2012 case file agreed and GIODO filed a complaint against it.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 21 November 2012 case file I OZ 850/12 dismissed it.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1563/11

October 30th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeshipp Administrative Court in Warsaw its judgment of 21 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1579/10 dismissed the complaint filed by the Polish company Dimyat Polska Sp. z o.o. against the decisions of the Polish Patent Office on the refusal to grant the right of protection for the word trade mark PLISKA Z-135975 applied for the goods in Class 33 such as alcoholic beverages, wines, liqueurs, cognac, brandy, vodka, spirits. The PPO decided that the applied trade mark is devoid of sufficient distinctive character, because it does not individualise the goods on the market. The sign Pliska has no distinctive graphics, does not have any distinguishing features that would help to identify the manufacturer of the goods. Pliska is the name of the village in Bulgaria, in the Shumen district. It is not a fancy designation, but a sign informing about the geographical origin. The first figurative trade mark Pliska has been applied in the Republic of Poland in 1962 by the Bulgarian company. Since then alcohol products bearing Pliska trade mark have been introduced on different markets, among others, the Polish one. In addition, the PPO noted that the mark applied sign may contain inaccurate information, as it may cause confusion of the average consumer as to the origin of goods. The recipient who are buying alcoholic beverages bearing Pliska sign would believe that they were produced in Bulgaria. The Court agreed with the PPO and supported its view with the arguments included in the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU of 4 May 1999 in joined cases C-108/97 and C-109/97 Windsurfing Chiemsee Produktions.

Dimyat Polska Sp. z o.o. filed a cassation complaint. The company argued inter alia that the decision in this case was issued by a person whose mother in law sat in the panel of the judges in the VAC. At the hearing before the Supreme Administrative Court, the counsel for the PPO acknowledged that the decision of the first instance in the Patent Office was issued by an expert who is daughter in law of one of the judges.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 28 September 2012 case file II GSK 1563/11 overturned the judgment of the VAC and sent it back for further reconsideration. The SAC held that despite the merits of the cassation complaint, there was a condition of nullity of the proceedings. The Polish Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts states that a judge is excluded in deciding a case in matters that concern his or her relatives in a straight line and in-laws to the second degree. In the present case, the mother-in-law is a first-degree relationship. The institution of exclusion of a judge is a procedural guarantee which consist of the impartiality of the judge that is identified with objectivity of the proceedings. The impartiality of judges is this kind of value for which the protection and execution is particularly important in a democratic state of law. Such defined impartiality should be identified with objectivity that is expressed in the equal treatment of the parties of any proceedings, so that there is no favorable situation for any of them. The court proceedings must be conducted in such a way that there is not even an apparent impression of behavior that would be deemed as disregard of standards of impartiality, being a manifestation of judicial independence.

E-access to public information, case I OSK 1203/12

October 19th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups (SLLGO) requested the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to disclose documents and the correspondence, including e-mails, that concerned recent legislative works on the amendments to the Polish Act on Access to Public Information. The Prime Minister disclosed part of the requested materials, but without indicated e-mails. The representative of the Prime Minister argued that e-mails are used to send text messages, they are used as internal correspondence in the office, as well as with external entities. E-mails consists of various documents of varying importance, significance and category (from the private and business). However, it is not a system of receiving and processing of official documents and the exchange of official correspondence, including these on the legislative process. The system serves for communications between certain individuals, rather than for the presentation of the official positions of the administration. The SLLGO filed a complaint and argued that the Prime Minister failed to act in order to disclose the requested information.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 1 December 2012 case file II SAB/Wa 295/11 agreed with the SLLGO. The Court ruled that requested e-mails are not private, and they are used to exchange opinions, positions and evaluations between persons exercising public functions. There was no doubt that such electronic means were used for the evaluation and position with respect to the specific provisions of the Act amending the Act on Access to Public Information and other laws. The Court did not agree with the Prime Minister that such exchange of information was intended for internal use and it has working and preparatory nature. The Prime Minister filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 September 2012 case file I OSK 1203/12 annulled the contested judgment. The Court agreed with the PM and decided that e-mails are internal documents. This issue has been resolved in the same way by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 June 2012 case file I OSK 666/12. See “E-access to public information, case I OSK 666/12“.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2324/11

October 5th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Julius Sämann Ltd., the owner of the figurative trade mark WUNDERBAUM IR-0579396, filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark Forest Fresh R-183901 owned by S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek. Both trade marks were registered for similar goods in Class 5, mainly air freshening products. Julius Sämann Ltd. claimed that because of the similarity of goods there is a risk of misleading the public, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark. The company provided also evidence on reputation of its trade mark.

iR-0579396

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO decided that three required conditions had to be cumulatively met in this case: i) the reputation of the earlier mark, ii) the similarity or identity of signs, iii) if it without due cause would bring unfair advantage to the owner of the later trade mark or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trademark. The PPO noted that the case law distinguishes between absolute and relative methods of assessing reputation. The first one considers knowledge of the mark and takes into account primarily the percentage of a certain degree of its recognition on the market. The relative method emphasizes different criteria, including the degree of the recognition of the trade mark, the market share in terms of quantity and value of goods sold, the extent and duration of product advertisements marked by the sign, territorial and temporal scope of its use, licenses granted, quality of the goods, the value of the sign in the evaluation of independent financial institutions, the size of expenditures incurred in connection with the promotion of trade, as well as relationship price of substitute goods. The evidence material can be public opinion polls, prizes and awards, press releases, ratings, reports, invoices and other commercial documents, as well as various promotional materials. The Polish Patent Office has adopted a mixed methodology in this case, and ruled that both the evidence on reputation, that was claimed and established before the date of application of the contested trade mark, as well as documents from the later period, strengthen the recognition of reputation of the trade mark WUNDERBAUM IR-0579396. The PPO decided that both trade marks are similar in visual, aural and conceptual aspects. The PPO noted that the market presence and existence of a trade mark which consumers associate with reputation of another sign, harm the interest of the owner. S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek filed a complaint against this decision.

R-183901

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 2 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 334/11 dismissed it. The Court agreed with the the assessment of the PPO, and repeated that an entrepreneur, who for the goods of the same type, chooses a sign that is similar to a trade mark with earlier priority, given that there is an infinite number of signs to be selected, acts at its own risk. S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek brought a cassation comaplaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 10 July 2012 case file II GSK 2324/11 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The Court held that the important drawback of the contested judgment and the decision of the PPO was the assumption on the similarity of the opposed trade marks that was based on the mere fact of the use in their visual aspect, a form of tree, without trying to examine whether the different presentation, including the type and shape of the tree, used in these signs, allowed for the adoption of the view that there exists the similarity of the signs. As a result, the Polish Patent Office, followed by the VAC, accepted the monopoly (exclusiveness) of the company to use very idea of ​​the tree element in its trade mark. The SAC recommended that the VAC should also take a stand on the consequences of the fact that S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek used its trade mark for a considerable period of time from 2002. After almost 5 years, Julius Sämann Ltd. initiated a civil action against the S&A. The civil proceedings with regard to trade mark infringement ended before the Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 October 2009 case file V CSK 102/09. The Supreme Court dismissing a cassation appeal filed by Julius Sämann Ltd., based on the argument that long-standing and undisturbed use of the sign in question, in connection with the principle venire contra factum proprium, according to which, if the party continued at a specific practice, it can not rely on its illegality, if other entity accepted such practice in good faith and it could suffer injury as a result of the changes. The application of this rule would come into play especially in a situation, if after the reexamination of evidence, the similarity of opposed signs has been established, and there was not any proof of bad faith on S&S side. The argument that there was bad faith requires evidence and proof, because good faith is presumed. Whether, in connection with long-term use, the S&S trade mark has acquired distinctiveness under average conditions of the market, a feature which is required for any sign to be registered, could speak in favor of the principle of venire contra factum proprium. In addition, marking the goods produced by S&S with its own trade mark, which are the goods of the same kind as products of Julius Sämann Ltd., undoubtedly positively affected the overall demand for such goods on the marker. Therefore, the invalidation of S&S trade mark in situation of its use in good faith, could easily lead to the acquisition of the customers of S&S by Julius Sämann Ltd., without incurring the costs which were attended by S&S in the promotion of the sign, The Court found it difficult to accept. The SAC also held that it should be borne in mind that the right of protection for a trade mark, as every object in the closed list (numerus clasus) of property rights, is admittedly an absolute personal right effective against all (erga omnes), however, this right is not subject to absolute protection. In the light of the general principles for the exercise of property rights as defined in the Polish Civil Code, the boundaries of this right are defined in the Acts and the rules of social coexistence. The Polish Industrial Property Law also refers to these rules. For these reasons, the circumstances giving rise to the allegation of the infringement of the principle of venire contra factum proprium, are one of the limits to the exercise by the owner of its legitimate socio-economic use of the right of protection that derives from the registration of the trade mark. Thus, the invalidation proceedings started against the trade mark Forest Fresh R-183901, in violation of the above mentioned principle, may be considered as the abuse of the right of protection for a trade mark by the proprietor of such a right, that is not entitled to the protection.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1156/11

September 25th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

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.

R-180808

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.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 883/11

September 3rd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is the continuation of a story described in “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 827/10“. INTER GLOBAL decided to file a cassation complaint against the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court of 29 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 828/10 that upheld the decisions of the Polish Patent Office of 16 October 2009 case no. Sp. 449/05, in which the PPO invalidated the registration of the word-figurative trade mark TEMPO R-104245 because it was applied for in bad faith.

R-154752

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 May 2012 case file II GSK 883/11 dismissed the appeal. The Court noted that there was some sense in INTER GLOBAL’s legal arguments that there is a need to provide legal certainty in a situation where the disloyal agent used the trade mark of a foreign entrepreneur who was conscious of this fact, even if the trade mark was applied for registration in bad faith. However, the Court held that the protection of property rights against actions taken in bad faith is so extended that it will undoubtedly take precedence over considerations on legal certainty resulting from the long-term use of the mark. This rule will not be changed by the argument that the disloyal agent promoted the foreign trade mark and incurred significant expenses. The Polish legislator adopted the ban on registration of signs that were applied in bad faith as one of the main principles of industrial property law, so there is not any possibility of legalization of any unethical actions, even qualified, because characterized by bad faith of professional entities that are involved in business activities. Because of the legal certainty of market turnover, a foreign rightful owner of a trade mark used by another entity, will not be able to demand the invalidation of or to oppose the use of a later trade mark, in a situation in which the use of the later sign has been knowingly tolerated for a limited time, at least of 5 consecutive years, unless the application for registration of the later mark was made in bad faith. At the same time it should be noted that the registration of a trade mark that belongs to foreign trade partner by his disloyal agent without the consent is not always deemed as an act of bad faith. Although the cases in which an agent acting without the authorization of the proprietor will not be acting in bad faith are veru limited, however, such situations may occur. The court also said that the acceptance of INTER GLOBAL’s argument would lead to a situation of unequal treatment of foreign entrepreneurs compared to those operating in Poland. If, as the Polish Industrial Property Law rules only apply to relationships between a Polish agent and foreign entrepreneur, it would allow for an unlimited in time option of invalidation of the registered trade mark that was applied in bad faith (that option lapse after 5 years of the use of such mark, with the knowledge of a foreign entrepreneur), in the situation of the agent and a company operating in Poland. The company operating in Poland and being in the agency relationship with another entrepreneur (agent) could, therefore request for the invalidation of the signs registered by the latter in bad faith at any time. The foreign entrepreneur represented by a Polish disloyal agent would be deprived of such a right.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 1827/11

August 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

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.

Article 2
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.

Tax law, case I FSK1644/11

August 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

A taxpayer who sold the old porcelain and books which were inherited from grandparents and parents, and bought on the antique fairs, was ordered by the Polish tax authorities to pay VAT for four years. Every year the taxpayer sold hundreds of these things, for more than three thousand PLN. Only 3089 PLN is the amount of income received during the year that is deemed as free of tax,. According to tax authorities this activity could not be regarded as a hobby, but as a professional activity, that should be taxed.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 August 2012 case file I FSK 1644/11 dismissed the complaint of the taxpayer.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 413/11

August 3rd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is the continuation of a story described in “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1124/10“. GRAAL S.A decided to file a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 May 2012 case file II GSK 413/11 dismissed it and ruled that both the views established in Polish case-law and legal doctrine emphasize the fact that not the differences between the signs, but the similarities are assessed, and ultimately, the strength of this similarity determines whether there is likelihood of confusion or association between the trade marks, at least, at the part of the public.