Archive for: Art. 5 CUC

Internet domains, case III CSK 120/11

May 15th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

MEDianus sp. z o.o. and Medianus Agencja Reklamowa sp. z o.o. are seated in the same city, at a location nearby. The first one uses medianus.net domain name and the second medianus.pl. The first company was entered in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS) as MEDianus in June 2003 r. The second one was entered in 2009. MEDianus sp. z o.o. filed a complaint, to prohibit the other company to use the name “medianus” in the company name and as a domain name, based on the provisions of Article 3 and 5 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments. MEDianus sp. z o.o. argued the the use of the same company name caused many confusions with delivery of post or invoices.

R-200943

The District Court dismissed all claims. However, the Appellate Court in Kraków agreed with MEDianus sp. z o.o. appeal and ordered Medianus Agencja Reklamowa to change its company name and website and to publish an apology in two national newspapers.

Z-360648

The Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file III CSK 120/11 dismissed the complaint filed by Medianus Agencja Reklamowa. The Court held that in order to apply the provisions of Article 5 of the CUC, both companies have to be in competitive relationship. This situation happens when there is a risk of confusion with regard to the identity of entrepreneurs. The Court also confirmed that the so-called cybersquatting is an unnamed delict (tort) under the Polish law on combating unfair competition.

See also “Polish case law on domain names“.

Personal interest, case IX GC 367/11

February 27th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The company Polska Wódka (in English: Polish Vodka) from Warsaw sued two other companies Wódka Polska sp. z o. o. and Wódka Polska sp. komandytowa from Lublin (both companies are lined with Stock Spirits, former Polmos Lublin) for the infringement of the company name based on the regulations included in the Polish Civil Code that provides that the company name of the entrepreneur should differ sufficiently from the company names of other entrepreneurs that carry on their activities on the same market. The company name may not be misleading, in particular as regards the entrepreneur’s person, the object of their activity, place of activity and supply sources, and the Polish Act on Combating Unfair Competition which treats the use of the designation of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, based on the use of trade mark, name, emblem, letter abbreviation or another characteristic symbol already lawfully used to indicate another undertaking, as the act of unfair competition.

Polska Wódka claimed that it has the priority to its company name based on the entry in the Register of Business Entities in the National Court Register (KRS). The name of Warsaw’s company was entered in 2003, and the company names of Lublin’s entities were entered accordingly in 2005 and 2009. Polska Wódka argued that both sued companies act intentionally in order to mislead other market participants.

Both defendants did not agree with the suit and argued that they obtained the right to use their company names under final and binging decisions of the registration court, and noted that Polska Wódka does not proved that it performs any business activity under its company name because there are no annual reports in the KRS that would serve as proof of use.

The District Court in Lublin in its judgment case file IX GC 367/11 dismissed the suit as unfounded. The Court agreed that the company from Warsaw was the first one to start the use of the questioned name, however, it did not provided any evidence of its use in order to prove the confusion of other market participants. The Court also ruled that the protection if afforded to designation that are put in genuine use, not to these that were only registered in the KRS. Finally, the Court noted that the name Polska wódka (Polish vodka) is descriptive term related to a product name that is connected with a specific business activity, and it cannot be appropriated by single company. The Court ruled that Polish vodka is a designation that should be in the public domain, in order to be available for different entities which wish to use such name for their products. The judgment is not final yet.

Internet domains, case I ACa 1087/10

August 2nd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Court of Conciliation for Internet Domains at the Polish Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications (the CCID) in its award of 9 March 2010 case file 74/09/PA dismissed the complaint brought by Italian company Bisazza against Polish entrepreneur Rafał Kacprzak Installation.pl from Wrocław who registered the following domain names: bisazza.pl, bisazza.com.pl and bisazza-installation.com. Bisazza claimed that the registration of .pl domains infringed on its CTM BISAZZA no. 001494590 and word-figurative CTM “BISAZZA mosaico” no. 001500248. Surprisingly, the Court did not agree with arguments provided by the Italian company and held that there was no infringement because the regulations included in the Polish Industrial Property law that did not allow for such interpretation. According to the CCID, there was no delict/tort of unfair competition as activities of both companies should be deemed as complementary. The CCID noted that Bisazza could act more carefully and it should have registered both domain names much earlier. According to the Court, by advertising products of the Italian company, Mr. Kacprzak was not acting as a cyber squatter because he did not only intend to increase his financial benefits but he was doing it in order to maximise mutual benefits. The Court also said the Mr. Kacprzak did not infringe on the company name.

CTM no. 001500248

Bisazza S.p.A. filed a complaint against this controversial decision. The Company claimed the arbitration award is contrary to the public policy rules established in the Republic of Poland, including the protection of acquired rights, social justice, stable and secure law, comprehensive examination of the case, consistency of legal decisions and integrity of the legal system.

The Court for the Community Trade Marks and Community Designs (in Polish: Sąd Okręgowy w Warszawie Wydział XXII Sąd Wspólnotowych Znaków Towarowych i Wzorów Przemysłowych) in its judgment of 20 September 2010 case file XXII GWzt 17/10 annulled the questioned award. To begin with, the Court reminded that the Polish legislator sought to strengthen the arbitration proceedings by limiting the possibility of challenge of the awards issued by courts of arbitration. The competence of common courts in controlling the correctness of awards issued by arbitration courts are very limited and strictly defined. The petition for the reversal of the arbitration award belongs to the category of special appeals. It has a cassatory character (annulment of a judicial decision is allowed only in certain cases under strict conditions). In such proceedings the Court will not examine the merits of the dispute (if the facts warrant issued ruling) or verify the correctness of the findings that were made and accepted. All the grounds justifying of the petition for the reversal of the arbitration award are included in the Article 1206 §1-2 of 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.

§ 1 By way of an application a party may apply for the award to be set aside if:
1) there was no arbitration agreement, the agreement is not valid, ineffective or has expired under the law applicable to it;
2) the party was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator, of the arbitration proceedings or was otherwise unable to present its case before the arbitration tribunal;
3) the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement, provided that, if the decisions on matters submitted arbitration can be separated from those not so submitted or falling beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement, then only that part of the award which relates to the matters not submitted or falling beyond the submission may be set aside; the fact that a matter is beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement cannot constitute a ground for setting aside the award if a party who participated in the proceedings did not object to those claims being heard;
4) the composition of the arbitration tribunal or the fundamental rules of arbitral procedure were not in accordance with the agreement of the parties or with a provision of law;
5) the award was obtained by way of a crime or on the basis of a forged or falsified document,
6) a final judgment has already been made in the same case between the same parties.

§ 2. The arbitration award shall also be set aside if the court finds that:
1) the dispute was not capable of settlement by arbitration under the law;
2) the award is contrary to the public policy rules in the Republic of Poland (public order clause).

The Court noted that when assessing whether an arbitration award is contrary to the fundamental principles of law, the Court should take into account its content and not the correctness of the proceedings that were held before the arbitration body. The basic principles of the law underlying the assessment of the award should be understood not only as the constitutional rules but also as the general norms and rules in particular areas of law. The breach by an arbitration body of the proper substantive law justifies the reversal of the arbitration award only if the award is contrary to legal order. The arbitration body shall decide on the dispute according to the law of the legal relationship and when the parties explicitly mandated it – by the general principles of law or equity/fairness. The Court for the Community Trade Marks and Community Designs concluded that the interpretation of basic principles of trademark law both national and Community, that was provided by the CCID in its award, shows lack of understanding of the merits of law and lack of the ability to apply existing rules to the facts of this case. The arbitration court committed various irregularities: by qualifying the rights to Bisazza trade marks as national property rights, in examining the infringement based on only one character – probably a word trade mark – without considering the reputation, by dismissing the infringement claims on the basis of facts that do not have any meaning in trademark law while failing to examine identity/similarity of the marks and signs included in Internet domains and the goods and services of each party. The court reminded the arbitrator that the rules and regulations under the First Council Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks, the CTMR and the case law of the Court of Justice of the UE apply directly in disputes over infringement of the Community trade mark. These rules and regulations must be applied also by national courts including arbitration bodies. Incorrect choice of legal norms and wrongful interpretation led to an unjustified deprivation of protection which is afforded to Bisazza in relation to its trademarks. Mr Kacprzak appealed.

The Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgement of 1 April 2011 case file I ACa 1087/10 overturned the judgment of the Court for the Community Trade Marks and Community Designs. The Appellate Court found that since the CCID ruled that it has no jurisdiction to hear and decide upon some of the demands made by Bisazza, and rejected them in the suit, the decision was final and could not be controlled at all by the civil courts, including the proceedings caused by an action for annulment of an arbitration award. The findings stating that the CCID had no jurisdiction, that were based on the domain names regulations issued by the Scientific and Academic Computer Network (Naukowa i Akademicka Sieć Komputerowa), did not constitute a breach of the basic principles of the law (the public order clause), because Bisazza could take these demands to a civil court. In the opinion of the Appellate Court, the District Court failed to consider whether the erroneous application of the Polish law rather than the EU by the CCID was tantamount to violation of the basic principles of the law. It could have been so, only if it had a significant impact on the content of the decision rendered by the CCID. In the opinion of the Appellate Court, however, there was no such effect in this case. The Appellate Court ruled that the relevant regulations provided in the Polish law are the result of the implementation of the Directive 89/104/EEC and its relevant provisions required for this case to be then included in the CTMR. The Court decided that the solutions provided in the Polish law are similar to those of EU legislation, and the classification of infringement of trade mark rights is done by the same rules. The Appellate Court noted that the CCID found that Mr Kacprzak used, in the course of trade, a trademark identical to a protected mark not in relation to identical or similar goods but to goods protected by this trademark. The defendant is an installer of Bisazza mosaics but not identical or similar mosaics. The CCID examined also whether or not there is an infringement of reputed trademark, however, found no such breach. The Appellate Court also ruled that the award of the CCID did not violate the rules and principles of a stable and secure law because these rules should relate to the creation of law and not its application.

See also “Polish case law on domain names“.

Trade mark law, case IV CSK 231/10

October 27th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 21 October 2010 case file IV CSK 231/10 held that the combination of colors may serve as a trademark. However, the entrepreneur entitled to the right of protection cannot prohibit the use of one of such colors that is used by another entrepreneur in its trade mark. Judge Wojciech Katner stated that the single color cannot be a trademark.

R-115856

In this case, the object of protection was a combinations of two colors. The right or protection to the figurative trade mark R-115856 was granted to the BP P.L.C. by the Polish Patent Office based on the provisions of Article 120(2) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

Article 120
1. Any sign capable of being represented graphically may be considered as trademark, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.
2. The following, in particular, may be considered as trademarks within the meaning of paragraph (1): words, designs, ornaments, combinations of colours, the three-dimensional shape of goods or of their packaging, as well as melodies or other acoustic signals.

The trade mark infringement occurs when the proportions and the use of a given color by another entrepreneur will not allow for distinguishing of trade marks. Sending the case back for reconsideration the Court stated that the judgment of the court of the second instance should be clarified so that the dominance of the green color, would not suggest that this was British Petroleum fuel station. The Court agreed with the defendant that one cannot monopolize the colors, and only some are valuable on the fuels market. The Court held that although different entrepreneurs use the same color to designate their stations, it will not lead to consumers confusion because of the layout, and even a shade of these color. The Court noted that a reputable sign serves not only as the carrier of information about the origin of goods (services). It also provides some important information that may relate to the quality of goods (services), as well as the reputation of the owner of that trade mark or to its activities. Reputed Mark is a sign known, recognizable to a greater extent than usual signs, which does not mean that it must be known widely. Such recognition is provided precisely by these values that the character embodies, so for example, prestige, reputation, uniqueness, high quality. The reputation is not a simple consequence of the distribution of the mark, but it a notion settled in the minds of buyers (customers) about the qualities of goods (services), the prestige of the trade mark or other values.

See also “Trade mark law, case IV CSK 61/09“.

Trade mark law, case IV CSK 61/09

June 16th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

Combination of colors can be a protected trademark in Poland. Such a conclusion stems from the Supreme Court’s (SC) judgment of June 3, 2009, case file IV CSK 61/09. Pursuant to the SC, a combination of colors can be protected as a trademark, and shall not be deemed an attempt to monopolize the colors themselves. The issue arose in connection with the British Petroleum suit against Marian S., a Polish entrepreneur, who used the characteristic green and yellow colors to attract the prospective clientele to his gas stations. The efforts of the legitimate holder of the BP trademark, to convince the infringer to substitute the yellow component of his stations’ logo with another color proved unfruitful, and the case ended up in court. British Petroleum based its claims primarily on the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments, and the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments.

BP owns several Polish trade mark registration for color trade marks. For instance R-115842 and R-115843.
R-115842 R-115843

The Court of first instance found in favor of the claimant, stating that Marian S. had indeed committed not only the acts of unfair competition as described in articles 5 and 10 of the CUC.

Article 5. The designation of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, due to the use of trade mark, name, emblem, letter abbreviation or another characteristic symbol already lawfully used to indicate another undertaking, shall be the act of unfair competition.

(…)

Article 10.1. Such indication of products or services or its lack, which may mislead customers in relation to the origin, quantity, quality, components, manufacturing process, usefulness, possible application, repair, maintenance and another significant features of products or services as well as concealing the risks connected with their use, shall be the act of unfair competition.
2. Releasing for free circulation products in the packing which may cause effects referred to in section 1 above shall be the act of unfair competition, unless the use of such packing is justified by technical reasons.

But primarily, the Court ruled that Marian S. had infringed article 296(2)(ii) of the IPL that is, he had unlawfully used – in the course of trade – a trademark similar to a trademark registered in respect of identical goods, and the use of such mark is likely to mislead part of the public, in particular by evoking associations between the marks concerned (here Marian S. gas station logo and the BP gas station trademark). Unfortunately on appeal, the Court of II instance refused to share this view and the case was subsequently dismissed in whole, as the BP’s attempt to monopolize the colors of green and yellow. BP filed a cassation complaint. The SC did not understand why having made the same factual findings as the court of first instance, the court of appeals refused to recognize that the respondent had indeed committed the alleged acts of unfair competition. The SC noted also that the court of appeals should have and yet failed to address the important issue of whether the claimant’s trademark does indeed deserve protection under the IPL. As a result, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court for retrial.

See also “Trade mark law, case IV CSK 231/10“.

Unfair competition, case II CR 367/87

January 3rd, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The French company Interagra, seated in Paris, demanded the cease of use of the same name by an international enterprise established in Poznań by a Dutch citizen. The company was registered in 1983 in the Register of International Companies in Poznań by Barthold Asauerus van Doom, and operated on the whole Polish market. This company has also registered Interagra trade marks R-61166 and R-61280. However, long before these events, the company Interagra SA started its operation in France. Both companies operated in the field of agricultural products and food. The company Interagra from Poznań knew about the existence of the French one, because Interagra SA had established commercial links with Polish foreign trade centrals (entities that were allowed to cooperate with foreign businesses during the communism era in Poland).

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 June 1988 case file II CR 367/87 held that in case of marking/designating of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, any act that infringes or violates the rules of fair competition exhausts the conditions set out in Article 2 of the Act of 1926 on combating unfair competition, which is also valid for the provision of the Article 5 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments.

Unfair competition, case II CKN 70/96

January 20th, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court Civil Chamber in a judgment of 7 March 1997, case file II CKN 70/96, gave the interpretation on the priority of use of the designation of the undertaking as defined in article 5 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with later amendments.

Article 5.
The designation of the undertaking in a way which may mislead customers in relation to its identity, due to the use of trade mark, name, emblem, letter abbreviation or another characteristic symbol already lawfully used to indicate another undertaking, shall be the act of unfair competition.

The Court ruled that the priority of use – in accordance with the law – the name of the undertaking, is the only criterion for resolving conflicts between the designations, on the basis of the provisions of article 5 of the CUC.