Archive for: Polish institutions

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.

Unfair competition law, case VI ACa 1478/13

March 26th, 2015, Tomasz Rychlicki

Two Polish companies were involved in dispute regarding invalidation of a patent right. During the proceedings before the Polish Patent Office, one of the parties provided evidence that included internal documents and secret materials of the other party. The company filed a civil court action claiming unfair competition delict/tort.

The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2014 case file VI ACa 1478/13 ruled that patent invalidation proceedings, like any other litigation between entrepreneurs – even if it is connected with the economic activity of such entities, cannot be regarded as performing or conducting economic/business activities. This results in a lack of responsibility of the party of the proceedings before the Patent Office in respect of an act of unfair competition, even if in the course of that proceedings such party conducted activities that would normally be deemed as acts of unfair competition.

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.

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

February 24th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

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

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1542/12

February 17th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

R-211213

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

CTM no. 001821651

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

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

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

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

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.

Abusive clauses in B2C IT contracts, case XVII AmA 76/12

January 9th, 2014, Tomasz Rychlicki

Eller Service s.c., the owner of hosting service available at pobieraczek.pl, was sending to its customers misleading information in order to intimidate them and persuade to pay for serviced they did not directly order. The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection decided that the clients of the website pobieraczek.pl received messages suggesting a criminal offence. Meanwhile, only a court issuing the judgment, may determine whether a crime was committed. An entrepreneur can not intimidate its consumers. Even the hypothetical suggestion that there will be filed a complaint or a private suit, is against the law. Entrepreneurs cannot intimidate consumers in order to force them to make their payments, and cannot lead consumers into legal confusion. The President of the OCCP ordered the company to pay a penalty of more than 215 thousand PLN. Eller Service filed a complaint against this decision.

The Court of Competition and Consumer Protection in its judgment of 13 December 2013 case file XVII AmA 76/12 upheld that decision. The judgment is not final.

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 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 730/12

September 17th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

On May 2008, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark COOL RIVER R-205208 in Class 3. This sign was applied for by the Polish company Firma Handlowa A & S PARFUME FACTORY Marek Asenkowicz from Katowice.

ZINO DAVIDOFF SA filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. DAVIDOFF argued that COOL RIVER is similar to its trade marks such as DAVIDOFF COOL WATER R-71968, COOL DIVE IR-0850699, Cool Water IR-0615313. All these signs are intended to indicate the same goods as the questioned trade mark. DAVIDOFF also claimed that its trade mark COOL WATER IR-0812386 is reputed one. Moreover, the trade mark COOL RIVER has been applied for in bad faith, because A & S PARFUME FACTORY knew about the existence of earlier marks owned by DAVIDOFF. The sale by A & S of perfumes in almost identical packagings, as packagings used by DAVIDOFF was the irrefutable evidence of the use of reputation of DAVIDOFF’s trade marks and the application of COOL RIVER in bad faith.

IR-0615313

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office dismissed the request in its decision of 7 March 2011 case Sp. 483/09. While considering the visual and aural similarity of trade marks Cool Water, Davidoff Cool Water and Davidoff Cool Water Wave in relation to the questioned trade mark COOL RIVER, the PPO noted that all the words used in these trade mark have the origin of the English language. However, regardless of whether they will be pronounced in accordance with the spellings of the Polish language or in English, they are different in the visual and aural aspects due to the different verbal elements – WATER and RIVER. Furthermore, the PPO ruled that the word COOL, being the same element in all signs, is a common and popular word associated with something cold. The word WATER differs from RIVER in the visual aspect, and their pronunciation is different. The PPO also found that there were no circumstances indicating that A & S applied for its trade mark in bad faith. The burden of proving bad faith was on DAVIDOFF. At the same time, the overall assessment of the circumstances surrounding the consciousness of A & S at the date of trade mark application will decide on its bad faith. In the opinion of the PPO, such circumstances did not occur. Evidence such as the flyer entitled “list of alternative scents”, similar perfume packagings used by A & S as well as printouts from the website showing COOL WATER and COOL RIVER perfumes, were not sufficent to prove bad faith. Davidoff filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 January 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 2051/11 dismissed it. The Court agreed with the PPO that the trade marks are not similar. The VAC also held that the understanding of bad faith should be based on the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law. Bad faith occurs if someone applies for the trade mark in order to block other application or in order to block the use of the sign by other entity who uses this trade mark in the market or to take over the company’s market position. Bad faith also exists when someone is filing for a trade mark for speculative purposes, and there was no intent to use the applied sign, and in order to get benefits from the entity that owns such trade mark. Bad faith trade mark application happens when the applicant without due care or being aware, applies for a sign in violation of the rights of another person, or when the applied trade mark is contrary to morality or fair trade practices.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 September 2013 case file II GSK 730/12 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by ZINO DAVIDOFF SA.

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.

Personal interests, case I C 327/11

August 30th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The case concerned class’ photos of 32 children. Such photos were placed on a social networking site naszaklasa.pl. The black and white pictures were taken between the years 1972-1980, in a public space, i.e. a public education institution. Most of them were photos of the class as a whole, not each individual student. One person who was shown in this picture demanded its removal. The administrator of a website refused. The case went through all stages of administrative proceedings, and the person concerned decided to initiate a civil suit. The plaintiff demanded an apology in the media, 20.000 PLN compensation and the payment of 50.000 PLN for a social purpose, from the owner of naszaklasa.pl

The District Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 10 May 2013 case file I C 327/11 dismissed the suit. The Court ruled that the person seeking for the protection of his or her image has to prove that such image was published and is recognizable. It results from identification of information features of an image. Moreover, the image should be recognized not only by the person concerned, but also by third parties. The image of the plaintiff contained in the pictures was not fully recognized even his colleagues from the former primary school, as evidenced by comments on the website. Publishing of any informational or shooting materials on the website only provides the opportunity to look at such meterial by others, but this does not mean automatically that such information reached to an unlimited number of people, and consequently, that information was widespread. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 10 February 2010 case file V CSK 269/09 (published in: OSNC 2010/9/127) held data published on the web are not deemed as well-known/widespread data. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 27 February 2003 case file IV CKN 1819/00 (published in: OSP 2004/6/75) held that the infringement of the image of the individual occurs when it was published without the consent of the person in the photograph and while it allows for the identification of that person.

Personal data protection, I CSK 190/12

August 29th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 8 November 2012 case file I CSK 190/12 held that without a doubt, the first name and surname constitute personal data of the individual, therefore, the important question arose, whether they belong to the scope of the individual’s privacy as understood in the provisions of Article 5(2) of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments.

Article 5. 1. The right to public information is subject to limitation to the extent and on the principles defined in the provisions on the protection of confidential information and on the protection of other secrets being statutorily protected.
2. The right to public information is subject to limitation in relation to privacy of a natural person or the secret of an entrepreneur. The limitation does not relate to the information on persons performing public functions, being connected with performing these functions, including the conditions of entrusting and performing these functions and in the event when a natural person or entrepreneur resigns from the right to which he was entitled to.

Previous opinions of the Supreme Court on the relationship between the right to protect of personal data and the right to privacy are not clear. They were formulated mainly from the point of view of the protection of personal interests as defined in Articles 23 and 24 of the Civil Code – CC – (in Polish: Kodeks Cywilny) of 23 April 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 16, item 93, with subsequent amendments.

Article 23
The personal interests of a human being, in particular to health, dignity, freedom, freedom of conscience, surname or pseudonym, image, secrecy of correspondence, inviolability of home, and scientific, artistic, inventor’s and rationalizing achievements, shall be protected by civil law independent of protection envisaged in other provisions.

Article 24
§ 1 The person whose personal rights are threatened by someone else’s action, may require the desist of that action, unless it is not illegal. In the event of the infringement one may also require, the person who committed the violation, to fulfill the actions necessary to remove its effects, in particular, to make a statement of the relevant content and appropriate format. According to the conditions laid down in the Code one may also require monetary compensation or payment of an appropriate amount of money for a social purpose indicated.
§ 2 If as the result of a breach of personal rights one has suffered pecuniary prejudice, the aggrieved person may claim compensation based on general principles.
§ 3 The above shall not prejudice the entitlements provided by other regulations, in particular in copyright law and the patent (invention) law.

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 15 February 2008 case file I CSK 358/07 (published in OSNC 2009, no. 4, item 63) ruled that legal commentators and case law of the Constitutional Court agree that the right to protect of personal data is derived directly from personal rights such as human dignity and the right to privacy, citing judgments of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal of 19 February 2002 case file U 3/01 (published in OTK-A 2002, no. 1, item 3) and of 12 November 2002 case file SK 40/01 (published in OTK-A 2002, no. 6, item 81). Nowadays, the collection and processing of the personal data is technically relatively simple, therefore it is necessary to protect a person against uncontrolled collection and use of his or her personal data, often without the contribution or even awareness of the person concerned. For these reasons, the legislator specifically regulated the issues of data collection, processing, use and protection of personal data in the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 29 October 1997, No. 133, item 883, unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments. While interpreting its provisions, one cannot ignore the 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, and its preamble that explicitly states that data-processing systems are designed to serve man, whereas they must, whatever the nationality or residence of natural persons, respect their fundamental rights and freedoms, notably the right to privacy. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 28 April 2004 III CK 442/02 (unpublished) stressed that when assessing whether there has been the breach of privacy protected by the law, this concept cannot be absolutized due to the degree of its generality, it requires interpretation, taking into account the specific circumstances of the situation. Events and circumstances that form the personal and family life can be classified as private sphere of life. The special nature of this area of man’s life justify the grant of its strong legal protection. However, this does not mean that any reference to a particular person was information in the field of his or her personal life. The regime of protection of privacy and personal data protection regime are therefore independent. Undoubtedly, when it comes to the relationships and the impact of these regimes, because in certain situations, the actual processing of personal data may result in a violation of personal interests in the form of the right to privacy, or protection of the right to privacy will required the objection to the use of personal data. It is difficult to unequivocally determine whether the disclosure of the first name and the surname of an individual by a local government violates his or her right to privacy. This problem can be resolved only while assessing particular circumstances of each case. In this case, the city was requested to disclose the names of individuals with whom it has entered into a contract of mandate and contract of work. One of these contracts concerned preparation and delivery of a lecture. It was difficult for the Court to accept that anonymization and hiding of the surname of a person giving such a lecture would have any meaning. Other agreements related to use of the electronic system of sociological analysis and organization of the conference. They were entered by specific individuals with a public body, which was the city. These people had to reckon with the fact that their personal data will not remain anonymous. For a person requesting access to public information related contracts entered by a local authority, names of parties to such agreements are often more important than the content, and it is understandable for obvious reasons. It would be difficult in this case to defend the view that the disclosure of names of people in the present context would be deemed as a limitation on the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights of these persons. It had therefore to be assumed, that the disclosure of the names of persons entering civil contracts with a local authority does not affect the right to privacy of those persons referred to in Article 5(2) of the API.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection“, “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 1666/12

August 26th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company Promedica Care Sp. z o.o 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 users who posted negative comments regarding Promedica24.pl website. The GIODO decided that Agora S.A. should disclose requested information, although, it also noticed that the provisions of Article 29 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, were repealed as of 7 March 2011.

1. The processing of data is permitted only if:
1) the data subject has given his/her consent, unless the processing consists in erasure of personal data,
2) processing is necessary for the purpose of exercise of rights and duties resulting from a legal provision,
3) processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract,
4) processing is necessary for the performance of tasks provided for by law and carried out in the public interest,
5) processing is necessary for the purpose of the legitimate interests pursued by the controllers or data recipients, provided that the processing does not violate the rights and freedoms of the data subject.

However, these regulations should be still applied to proceedings initiated before the entry into force of the Act that repealed the above mentioned provisions, and there was no obstacle to justify the refusal to provide the requested data according to the provisions of Article 30 of the PPD.

Article 30
The controller shall refuse the access to the personal data of the filing system to subjects and persons other than those referred to in Article 29 paragraph 1, if it would:
1) result in the disclosure of the information constituting a state secrecy,
2) pose a threat to national defence or security of the state, human life and health, or security and public order,
3) pose a threat to fundamental economic or financial interests of the state,
4) result in a substantial breach of personal interests of the data subjects or other persons.

The General Inspector did not agree with Agora S.A. that providing the requested data would infringe personal interests of the users of gazeta.pl website and its fora. The violation was only hypothetical, and was not supported by proper evidence. Agora S.A. argued that there are no legal instruments that would allow for monitoring the use of disclosed data, and this may lead to their use not only inconsistent with the purpose for which they were disclosed, but even to such use that is contrary to law. The GIODO noted that the absence of such instruments is not synonymous with the use of disclosed data contrary to the purpose for which it was made available. At the moment such data was disclosed, the Company will become the controller (administrator) as defined in the Article 7(4) of the PPD.

Article 7
Whenever in this Act a reference is made to any of the following, it shall mean:
4) controller – shall mean a body, an organisational unit, an establishment or a person referred to in Article 3, who decides on the purposes and means of the processing of personal data.

According to the GIODO, the processing of these data will be subject to the regulations provided in the provisions of the PPD, in particular the obligation not to undergo further processing of the data collected that would not be in accordance with the objectives of the disclosure (so-called principle of expediency/purposefulness), and the control of data processing in compliance with the provisions on personal data protection will be still the competence of the Inspector General. Agora S.A. argued that the provisions of Article 18 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, should be applied in its case, not the provisions of the PPD.

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 provider is therefore obliged to provide information on all categories of data listed in Article 18(1-5) of the PSEM, to the State authorities for the purpose of the proceedings conducted by them. The Inspector General noted that the disclosed information should also be understood as such data. The GIODO said that the provision of Article 18(6) of the PSEM are constructed in general terms and do not indicate either the types of bodies that may request such information, or the types of proceedings: criminal, civil, administrative or enforcement. The Inspector General noted that the provision of Article 18(6) of the PSEM only requires the provider to disclose information to State bodies, and it should not be interpreted broadly as the legal norm that is prohibiting the disclosure of such information to other entities. The GIODO decided that if the legislature had the intention to limit the disclosure of the information referred to in Article 18(1-5) of the PSEM, only for the bodies referred to in Article18(6) of the Act, it would explicitly formulate this provision, for example, by using the phrase “only”, which is a legislative method of defining the closed circle of entities, as it was provided in other regulations, for instance in the Article 66g and Article 66j § 4 of the Polish Act of 17 June 1966 on Administrative Enforcement Proceedings, or in the Article 72(1) of the Polish Act 5 August 2010 on Protection of Classified Information and in Article 105(1) of the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 Banking Law. The Inspector General noted that the legislature did not use the phrase “only” in the provisions of Article 218 of the Criminal Proceedings Code – CRPC – (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Karnego) of 6 June 1997, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 89, item 555, with subsequent amendments, in relation to an obligation to disclose, at the request contained in the order, to the court or the prosecutor any mail and packages and the data referred to in Article 180c and 180d of the Polish Act of 16 July 2000 on Telecommunications Law – TLA – (in Polish: Prawo telekomunikacyjne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 171, item 1800 with subsequent amendments.

Article 180c
1. The obligation referred to in Article 180a (1) shall cover the data necessary to:
1) trace the network termination point, telecommunications terminal equipment, an end user:
a) originating the call,
b) called;
2) identify:
a) the date and time of a call and its duration,
b) the type of a call,
c) location of telecommunications terminal equipment.
2. The minister competent for communications in agreement with the minister competent for internal affairs, having regard to the type of telecommunications activities performed by operators of a public telecommunications network or providers of publicly available telecommunications services, data specified in paragraph 1, costs of data collection and retention as well as the need to avoid multiple retention and storage of the same data, shall specify, by means of an ordinance:
1) a detailed list of data referred to in paragraph 1;
2) types of public telecommunications network operators or providers of publicly available telecommunications services obliged to retain and store the data.

Article 180d
Telecommunications undertakings shall be obliged to provide conditions for access and retention as well as to make available at their own cost the data referred to in Article 159 (1) (1) and (3) to (5), in Article 161 and in Article 179 (9) related to the provided telecommunications service and processed by them to authorized entities, to the court and to the prosecutor, under the terms and observing the procedures specified in separate provisions.

The Inspector General stressed that the legislature has indicated that only the court or the prosecutor is allowed to open the correspondence, mail and data, or order for their opening.

Article 218
§ 1. Offices, institutions and entities operating in post and telecommunications fields, customs houses, and transportation institutions and companies, shall be obligated to surrender to the court or state prosecutor upon demand included in their order, any correspondence or transmissions significant to the pending proceedings. Only the court and a state prosecutor shall be entitled to inspect them or to order their inspection.

The Inspector General also stressed that the above-cited provisions of the CRPC should not be applied in this case, because Promedica Care Sp. z o.o is not the authority conducting the proceedings in a criminal case, and the disclosed personal data will be used by it to initiate civil, not criminal proceedings. The GIODO indicated that Promedica may follow the procedure provided for in Article 29 of the PPD, and civil proceedings under the Civil Proceedings Code – CPC (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Cywilnego) of 17 November 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 43, item 296, with subsequent amendments, regardless of actions taken under the criminal proceedings. Agora S.A. filed a complaint.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 March 2012 II SA/Wa 2821/11 repealed the contested decision, and held that according to the provisions of Article 18(6) of the PSEM, the only one empowered to obtain data collected by the service provider within the meaning of that Act, are the State bodies. The PSEM does not contain any other provision, which serve as the basis for disclosure of data to the entities other than state authorities. The court stated that if the legislature’s intention was to give permission to obtain operational data to entities other than state authorities, it would have included a clear regulation providing for such permission in the PSEM. Data protection is a general rule. The service provider may process personal and operational data only in the extent and on terms defined in the PSEM. Only in the absence of regulations provided in the PSEM such processing may be based on an appropriate application of the PPD. The disclosure of data to third parties – such as Promedica Care – is breaking of that protection and as an exception to the rule cannot be interpreted broadly. GIODO filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 August 2013 case file I OSK 1666/12 dismissed it. The SAC held that any company or individual has the right to request ISPs to disclose e-mail addresses and IP addresses that are associated with the offensive entries.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection“, “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

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“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 484/12

July 14th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for word trade mark Orlen R-192731 owned by the company ORLEN Spółka z o.o. that was registered for goods in Class 9 and services in Class 42 with the priority of 2002. The request was filed by the big Polish oil company PKN ORLEN S.A. which argued that the questioned sign is similar to its reputed trade mark ORLEN R-125559 that was registered with the priority of 1999. Orlen sp. z o.o. claimed that its company had been registered and has been operating since 1992 under the name “Orlen”, and Orlen S.A. adopted and appropriated that name in 2000. Orlen S.A. called Orlen sp. z o.o. to discontinue use of that name due to getting the right of protection for the earlier trade mark ORLEN. After an exchange of correspondence between the parties, there was no consensus due to divergent expectations, in particular with regard to financial issues. Orlen S.A. proved that there were contacts and negotiations between the parties, subject to the cease of use of the mark ORLEN and argued that the trade mark application was mercantile in nature, becasue the applicant seek only commercial interest and wanted to sell this trade mark. Orlen S.A. submitted copies of correspondence between the parties and photocopies of sale offers. ORLEN Spółka z o.o. filed a complaint against this decision and pointed out that it has offered to sell the company as a whole rather than the trade mark itself.

R-167806

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1376/11 dismissed the complaint and ruled that an entrepreneur performing its business activities must be guided by the degree of care that is expected from more than the average person in order to predict the consequences of his or her actions and omissions. The content of the right to the company name within the meaning of the Polish Civil Code is not in fact an absolute and unrestricted right that allows to apply on its behalf for a trade mark that is convergent with this company name, regardless of the rights of third parties. Therefore, the person who uses a given sign and does not register it on his or her own behalf as a trade mark, acts at own risk. An entrepreneur who does not seek to acquire protection for its trade mark cannot rely on the earlier right to its company name, when the other party has obtained a right to a sign identical to the name of the business with an earlier priority and through significant investments earned its reputation. In such a situation, an identical trade mark application made by the entrepreneur who has the right to the company after many years from the commencement of his business, when the other party has made a substantial investment and broad actions leading to the reputation of its trade mark, should be regarded as taking unfair advantage of the reputation of the earlier sign.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 26 June 2013 case file II GSK 484/12 dismissed the cassation complaint.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 487/12

June 27th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

On May 2006, the Polish Patent Office granted the joint right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark SILMENT R-175055 for three Polish entrepreneurs – Stanisław Wilk, Jan Kosmala and Marek Siemiński. Mr Wilk requested the PPO for a change in the trade mark register. According to the donation agreement of January 2010, he has transferred to his son 1.65% of 33% of his share in the right to the trade mark. On June 2010, the PPO entered the name of his son and deleted Stanisław Wilk, however, after the request for re-examination, the PPO made another changes in the column A of the trade mark register, and entered both father and son as co-owners. Mr Kosmala filed a comaplaint against this decision. He argued that the supplied evidence did not allow for making such amendments. Mr Kosmala did not agree that a part of 33% share could be transferred to another person, because according the agreement of 2004 on the joint ownership, that was signed between Kosmala, Siemiński and Wilk senior, any joint owner could make a donation of the joint right to the right of protection for a trade mark SILMENT R-175055 only to the spouse and descendants of the first group of inheritance.

R-175055

The Voivideship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 25 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1409/11 noted that between co-owners to the trade mark SILMENT arose a dispute over the interpretation of the agreement. The Court ruled that, in principle, the right of protection for a trademark may be assigned or be subject to succession. The transfer of the right of protection may be effected only with the consent of the parties who enjoy that right. The agreement of assignment of a share in the joint right of protection should be only valid subject to the consent given by all of the joint owners. When examining the request for the change in the trade mark register, the PPO should investigate whether the submitted documents, supposed to provide grounds for taking a decision on entry in a register, are in accordance with this Polish Industrial Property Law and satisfy the effective provisions as to form. The entries should not be binding on an authority whose responsibilities, under the provisions of law, include deciding on a document founding the decision on entry in a register or in a case, the outcome of which may affect a decision of the Polish Patent Office on entry in the register. The “registry-entry” proceedings are designed to adjust the content of an entry with the current legal status, and a decision on the entry into the trade mark register has only a declaratory nature and it not a source of trade mark rights. Therefore, the cognition of the Polish Patent Office in matters of entries in the registry, is strictly defined. This means that while investigating the request for a change, the PPO cannot exceed those limits. As a result, the PPO cannot investigate the regularity of both the preparation of the documents submitted as a basis for entry in the registry, as well as make their interpretation. As there is dispute between the parties over the interpretation of the agreement, the PPO cannot agree to the interpretation of one of the parties. These doubts have to be resolved by a civil court. And if such dispute has not been initiated by a party, the PPO should stay proceedings and call the party to apply to the competent court, within the prescribed time, to provide a preliminary decision on the issue which is a condition of the settlement in the main case. Therefore,the Court annulled the contested decision, ruled it unenforceable, and ordered the PPO to consider the Court’s arguments during re-examination of the case.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 June 2013 case file II GSK 487/12 dismissed the cassation complaint. The SAC held that the controversy concerning the effects of the donation agreement in the light of the content of the co-ownership of a trade mark rights, has to be resolved by a proper civil court.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2349/12

June 21st, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw case file VI SA/Wa 2349/12 dismissed the complaint filed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) against the decision of the Polish Patent Office that refused to invalidate the word-figurative trade mark Olimpiada Przedsiębiorczości R-220562 owned by Fundacja Promocji i Akredytacji Kierunków Ekonomicznych, and ruled that this sign not similar to the Olympics, Olympic and Olimpiad trade marks.

R-220562

The Court agreed with the PPO that sounding of the sign in question is sufficiently differentiated primarily due to the fact that the mark is composed of two words.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1340/12

April 4th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

TERRAVITA Sp. z o.o. from Poznan requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the international registration of 3D trade mark IR-882978 registered for Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG for goods in Class 30 such as chocolate and chocolate products. TERRAVITA argued that the international registration is a bar for a Polish company to introduce different chocolate products in a shape of a haze or bunny on the national market.

IR-0882978

The Polish Patent Office in its decision of 15 April 2011 case no. Sp. 314/09 dismissed the request. The PPO ruled that TERRAVITA did not prove that the 3D trade mark lacks distinctive character, and there was no bad faith in the trade mark application, because the Polish company did not provide any evidence that Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli seek for the protection in order to forcing royalties and block market access. TERRAVITA filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 December 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1340/12 repealed the decision of the Polish Patent Office and ruled it should not be enforceable.

Consumer protection, case VI ACa 1069/12

March 9th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The concept of “average consumer” is present in intellectual property law and the law of unfair competition from a long time. Since the Dassonville case (C-8/74), the concept of the average consumer has been developed in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and appeared in the preamble to Directive 2005/29 on unfair commercial practices. According to the Polish Act of 23 August 2007 on combating unfair commercial practices, the average consumer is understood as a consumer who is adequately informed, attentive and careful. The assessment should be made with account taken of social, cultural, linguistic factors and the belonging of the particular consumer to a specific consumer group, which should be understood as a consumer group that can be unambiguously identified and is particularly receptive to the influence of a commercial practice or the product to which the commercial practice applies, due to its specific characteristics, such as age, physical or mental disability. However, it looks like some Polish courts do not think that an average Polish consumer fits the established rules and standards.

The Appeallate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 January 2013 case file VI ACa 1069/12 held that the average Pole, which is also the average consumer, mainly due to social and cultural backgrounds, has a low legal awareness. This is the view shared by the Polish legal community. The standard of an average Polish consumer cannot in any way related to the standard of the average consumer in Western Europe, which for many decades is subjected to intensive consumer education.

Trade mark law, case no. Sp. 407/12

February 12th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V. from Germany requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the international word-figurative trade mark BAVARIA IR-1051133 registered goods in Class 32 such as beer and non-alcoholic beverages for the Bavaria N.V. from the Netherlands.

IR-1051133

Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V. claimed infringement of the right to a geographical indication, and noted that the questioned trade mark is misleading, and it was applied in bad faith.

However, the PPO has not had the opportunity to comment substantively on the matter, because during the hearings, Bavaria N.V. waived its right. In these circumstances, the Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decison of 22 January 2013 case no. Sp. 407/12 discontinued the proceedings as irrelevant.

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 Sp. 472/05

December 17th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Michael Ovadenko requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark COFFEE HEAVEN R-147034 owned by Coffeeheaven International Plc. Mr Ovadenko argued that this registration infringed his copyrights.

The PPO decided to stay proceedings and ordered the applicant to come up with a petition to the civil court to determine the existence of his rights. Mr Ovadenko filed a suit before the District Court in Warsaw but it was dismissed. The Court held that the designation COFFEE HEAVEN cannot be deemed as a copyrighted work under the Polish Act on Authors Rights and Neighbouring Rights, according to which the object of copyright should be any manifestation of creative activity of individual nature, established in any form, irrespective of its value, purpose or form of expression (work). The appeal complaint was also dismissed.

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its decision of 29 November 2012 case no. Sp. 472/05 dismissed the request. The decision is not final yet. The complaint may be filed before the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.