Archive for: Art. 130 IPL

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.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 72/11

February 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 25 May 2006, the Polish company AERECO Wentylacja Sp. z o.o. applied for the word-figurative trade mark HIGROSTEROWANIE Z-311192 for goods in Classes 07, 09, 11 and 35. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection, claiming that the applied sign does not have sufficient level of distinctive character. The PPO pointed out this trade mark is built from the core “sterowanie” (in English: controling/steering) and the prefix higro (English: hygro) which indicates a semantic link to the humidity. The sign that is created from these two elements, although not listed in dictionaries, is not a fanciful term and simply means “to regulate humidity”.


AERECO filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 September 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1117/10 dismissed it, and ruled that both in the legal commentaries and the case law of administrative courts, it is considered in particular, that the descriptive sign is one that has the characteristics of the topical, concrete and direct descriptiveness. The topicality of the signs should be assessed on the objective basis and consist of examining whether from the perspective of current market conditions, a sign is useful for description of the goods and if as such it should be accessible to all participants. The rule of concrete descriptiveness states that a sign which indicates the specific characteristics of the product for which the designation is intended may be exempted from the registration as descriptive one. The direct descriptiveness occurs when a descriptive sign informs directly, clearly and unambiguously about the characteristics of a particular goods, so that characteristics may be interpreted directly, and not by associations.

The Court shared the position of the PPO, that the the questioned sign simply means “controling humidity” and thus explicitly indicates the characteristics of the designated goods and can not be appropriated to describe the products or services of one company. The VAC did not find anything fanciful in the figurative element of the HIGROSTEROWANIE trade mark. ARECO filed a cassation complaint but it was dismissed by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 February 2012 case file II GSK 72/11.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1033/10

February 22nd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is another part of the saga of trade marks consisting of numerals. On March 2003, Agencja Wydawnicza TECHNOPOL Spółka z o.o. applied for the word trade mark 100 PANORAMICZNYCH Z-261876 for goods in Class 16 such as newspapers, charade magazines, booklets, brochures, flyers, calendars, posters, exercise books.

The Polish Patent Office decided that it cannot grant rights of protection for signs which cannot constitute a trade mark, or are devoid of sufficient distinctive character. The PPO reminded that the following are considered as being devoid of sufficient distinctive character (i) signs which are not capable of distinguishing, in trade, the goods for which they have been applied, (ii) signs which consist exclusively or mainly of elements which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, origin, quality, quantity, value, intended purpose, manufacturing process, composition, function or usefulness of the goods, (iii) signs which have become customary in the current language and are used in fair and established business practices. TECHNOPOL filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 April 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 410/10. TECHNOPOL filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 November 2011 case file II GSK 1033/10 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC agreed with allegations of violation of administrative proceedings that was based on erroneous findings that the disputed trade mark could not acquire secondary meaning. The Court noted that when the PPO is assessing whether or not a sign has a sufficient distinctive character, any circumstances accompanying its use in marking the goods in trade should be taken into consideration. Grant of a right of protection under previously mentioned rules may not be denied in particular where prior to the date of filing of a trademark application with the PPO, the trademark concerned has acquired, in consequence of its use, a distinctive character in the conditions of the regular trade. This indicates the possibility of acquiring secondary meaning by descriptive signs. In principle, secondary meaning can only be acquired by signs that are devoid of any distinctiveness, including descriptive or generic designations. Thus, the mere fact that the sign is purely informational does not preclude the acquisition of secondary meaning. Descriptive signs refer to the qualities or characteristics that may affect goods from various manufacturers.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 562/11

November 4th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the word trade mark flex fuga Z-297616 applied for by MAPEI POLSKA Sp. z o.o. for goods in Class 1 such as adhesives based on plastics and resins, silicone mortars, for goods in Class 6 such as decorative moldings, profiles, metal profiles, and for goods in Class 19 such as decorative moldings, profiles, profiles not made of metal, masonry mortars, dry plaster, mortars for grouting and welding.

The PPO decided that this trade mark is devoid of sufficient distinctive character and it lacks any additional elements, such as verbal or graphic, which would allow potential purchasers to identify the goods with the source of the origin of goods. The PPO noted that a fuga is a weld/joint between adjacent wall elements and flex means flexible in English.

MAPEI filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 26 August 2009 case file VI SA/WA 1017/09. MAPEI decided to file a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 January 2011 case file II GSK 19/10 overturned the judgment of the VAC and held that the VAC relied on the erroneous assumption that the buyers (users) of goods bearing the trademark at issue are those who know English or use the Internet every day, which was not supported by any evidence. Besides, the trade mark flex fuga was applied for not only various types of mortars but also for various types of decorative moldings, profiles, sections of metal and non-metallic, and in relation to those goods it is difficult, to talk about “cut or bent” joint or weld.

The case went back to the Voivodeship Administrative Court. The VAC in its judgment of 9 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 562/11 held that the fact that the Polish Patent Office has granted the rights of protection for a number of trade marks containing the word “flex” or the word “flex” in combination with other words, should prompt the PPO to a broader examination of the merits of the MAPEI’s trade mark application. Thus, the PPO’s view that even if MAPEI relied on other decisions issued by the Polish Patent Office, it could not affect the assessment of the submitted application and its final examination, is not justified. The VAC noted that the PPO could change its position on the regularity of the grant of rights of protection, in which one element was the word “flex”, but it should justify such change in detail. The case law of the PPO may therefore be subject to change, if the authority demonstrates that there are reasonable grounds. However, any unfounded inconstancy of the opinion of the public body constitutes an infringement of the administrative procedure, because it may result in undermining citizens’ trust in state bodies and adversely affect the legal culture of citizens, and thereby cause a breach of the constitutional rule that all persons shall be equal before the law and all persons shall have the right to equal treatment by public authorities.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 615/10

September 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Mr Roman Oraczewski Oficyna Wydawnicza PRESS-MEDIA requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the trade mark “Sto Panoramicznych” R-102530 owned by TECHNOPOL Agencja Wydawnicza Spółka z o. o. and registered for goods in Class 16 such as magazines. The PPO invalidated this trade mark and ruled that this designation is descriptive and informative, because it is carrying explicit message on the number and type of crosswords included in each copy of the magazine. TECHNOPOL filed a complaint against this decision, but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 February 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1862/09. TECHNOPOL decided to file a cassation complaint. The Comapny argued inter alia that its trade mark has acquired secondary meaning because TECHNOPOL also used similar signs, for instance “100 panoramicznych” R-102531, which is a modification of the trade mark “Sto Panoramicznych”.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 25 May 2011 case file II GSK 615/10 dismissed the complaint and ruled that the use of a sign in order to prove its secondary meaning, can not be documented by the use of other similar designation that is also a separate, registered trade mark.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1122/10

February 11th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 25 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1122/10 ruled that a trade mark application and examination case cannot be decided based on general assumptions and in an automatic way, because it is always resolved with regard to its specific conditions and references. The Polish Patent Office is required to conduct proceedings in such a way as to increase the trust of citizens in the State bodies and public awareness and appreciation of the law. According to the mentioned above principles, the PPO is required to precisely explain the circumstances of the case, respond to all claims and allegations and to include both public interest and the interests of the party, in the decision rendered.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 691/09

October 5th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 14 October 2002, the Polish company BWS Polska Sp. z o.o. based in Zaczernie applied for the right of protection for VARNA Z-256235 trademark for goods in Class 33 such as wines. The Polish Patent Office informed the applicant that it cannot be granted a right of protection because VARNA is also a geographical name of the Bulgarian city of Varna, which is located in the eastern Black Sea region famous for producing high quality white wines. Due to the fact that the seat of the applicant is located on Polish territory, the sign may lead the potential buyers to confusion as to the origin of goods. In response, BWS noted that the sign does not contain any false information, while simultaneously indicating that it is an importer and distributor of wines from south-eastern Europe, including Bulgaria.

The PPO received also comments issued by BSG Poland Sp. z o. o. in which the company raised objection of lack of statutory requirements for the protection of the questioned trade mark. Comments were sent to BWS but the company has not agreed to these statements.

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant a right of protection. The PPO ruled that VARNA sign is information on the place of the origin of wine – the site of a wine-growing and processing, without informing the consumer about anything else. According to the PPO, the importer has the right to register its trade mark, but the choice that violates the rights of manufacturers who conduct business in the region of Varna – infringes on the principles of merchant’s honesty. A situation in which the Bulgarian wine producers could not provide the Polish consumer that the wine has been produced by them is not fair, because they were outrun by an entity whose relationship with Bulgaria is at least questionable.

BWS requested the retrial of its case. The company reduced the original list of goods to wines from Bulgaria. It argued also that, under a contract with the Bulgarian multi-vendor, which is located in Varna, it has exclusive rights to sell original bottled VARNA wine. BWS indicated that the packaging of imported wine, includes bottle shape and color and shape, color, composition and location of the graphic label and it is its own creation. The company pointed out that the Trade Mark Register includs other signs being the name of national and international cities, towns, and in its opinion, the registration of VARNA trade mark will not be the monopolization of the word, because the Varna city remains a geographical name, the name of the appellation of origin or possibly the name of the seat of the suppliers of wine.

After reconsidering the matter, the Polish Patent Office upheld the contested decision. The PPO withdrew from contesting the trade as contrary to good merchant’s practice and public policy, pointing out also that the limited list of goods also been removed as an obstacle to the misleading nature of the sign. However, the PPO ruled that VARNA is the word trade mark, with no graphics, and indicates the origin of goods, therefore, it cannot be registered. The average consumer will read the sign as the Bulgarian city or geographic region on the Black Sea, famous for making wines. BWS filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 March 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2098/08 held that the contested decision is the right. According to the Court the basic prerequisite for the grant of the right of protection is the distinctive character of a sign. The legal doctrine distinguishes between the so-called abstract distinctive ability and the concrete distinctive ability. The mark is characterized by the abstract distinctive ability, where a sign is examined abstractly (in isolation from the specific goods or services) capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of another. The mark has concrete distinctive character when it is capable of distinguishing goods or services specified in the application to the Patent Office of goods or services of another company.

BWS filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 July 2010 case file II GSK 691/09 reversed the contested judgment and refered the case back for reconsideration. The SAC held that the VAC overlooked in its deliberations, the fact that the disputed word mark VARNA is not present in the Polish language as the name of the city in Bulgaria. This spelling of the city name does not occur in Bulgarian either (it’s Варна). However, in Polish language the city is known as Warna. Meanwhile the VAC in assessing the facts of the case stated that it was undisputed that the sign is the name of the VARNA city in Bulgaria and that by placing it on the goods (wines originating from Bulgaria) it will indicate the relevant public without difficulty and without no additional actions the origin goods. The Court had the duty to assess the legality of the contested decision of the Polish Patent Office even if the allegation was not raised in the complaint. The law requires that the assessment whether the mark is sufficiently distinctive has to be made individually for each sign. The VAC should also examine the issue whether a questioned sign due to the use of the first letter “V” and not “W” (as is correctly spelled in Polish) has sufficient distinctiveness, although phonetically the “V” and “W” letters sound the same in the Polish language. Of those grounds the SAC held that the VAC has not made an overall assessment of distinctive character of the sign in question, taking into account its visual, aural or conceptual elements, and therefore the VAC infringed on Article 113 §1 and Article 145 §1 point 1 C of the Polish Act on Proceedings before Administrative Courts, since it dismissed the case without adequate explanation of the matter. The SAC noted also that the BWS claimed that, under the earlier decisions of the PPO, it acquired rights of protection for trademarks, even though they were the names of cities (Melnik – a city in Bulgaria), Calama (a city in Chile), or Beverly Hills (a city in California), however, the VAC did not respond to such arguments. In light of the settled case-law of the Supreme Administrative Court, the administration body can change its opinion on the content of the right conclusion, which should be issued in a specific type of cases, but it must carefully justify such a change, especially when changing the view of decisions taken in relation to the same applicant. The case-law of the administration may therefore be subject to change, if the authority demonstrates that there are reasonable grounds.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 607/09

August 31st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

TRODAT POLSKA Sp. z o.o. from Warsaw applied for the right of protection for Pieczątka 2 Z-294822, Pieczątka 3 Z-294821, and Pieczątka 4 Z-294823 trade marks in class 13. Pieczątka means “stamp” in English. The Polish Patent Office in letters dated 27 March 2007 informed the applicant that these signs are not capable of serving as trade marks due to lack of sufficient distinctive character and urged Trodat to submit comment on this issue. The applicant did not respond to the letters sent by the PPO, in particular, Trodat did not take any position on the reported lack of sufficient distinctive character.


The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 July 2010 case file II GSK 607/09 held that the burden of proof rests on those who seek for legal consequences from a particular fact for itself (the applicant), it results from a series of obligations incumbent on the applicant, including the obligation to provide explanations, to take an active part in the proceedings and to submit precise requests. These obligations are provided in Articles 145(2) and 152 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 of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments, in connection with Regulation of the Prime Minister of 8 July 2002 on filing and processing of trademark applications, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 115, item 998 with subsequent amendments.

Article 145
1. Subject to paragraph (2), where the Patent Office finds that the statutory requirements for the grant of a right of protection for a trademark have not been satisfied, it shall make a decision on refusal to grant the right.
2. Before the decision referred to in paragraph (1) is made, the Patent Office shall fix a time limit, within which the applicant is invited to react on the collected evidences and documents which imply the existence of grounds that may cause the right of protection to be denied.
3. Where the statutory requirements are found not to have been satisfied in respect to only certain goods, a right of protection for the trademark in respect of these goods shall be first to be refused by the Patent Office. On the respective decision becoming final the Patent Office shall grant a right of protection for the trademark in respect of the goods, for which it can be granted.

Article 152
The Prime Minister shall, by way of regulation, determine the detailed requirements to be satisfied by a trademark application, the detailed rules and procedure to be applied in the course of examination of trademark applications including, in particular, the extent to which the relevant information may be disclosed to the public after the expiration of the period referred to in Article 143 and the manner in which it is made available, as well as the extent to which the Patent Office is authorised to make corrections in the list of goods and their classification. The requirements to be satisfied by trademark applications may not be determined in such a way as to encumber the applicant with excessive and unreasonable impediments.

The renunciation of the party – despite the invitation issued by the Polish Patent Office – to submit sufficient evidence, explanations, positions may not be of no importance in a situation where the party alleges that the PPO erred in its decision in this particular issue, as a result of breach of the obligation imposed on the PPO to clarify the circumstances of the case in accordance with Article 7 and 77 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 30, item 168, consolidated text of 9 October 2000, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 98, item 1071 with subsequent amendments.

Article 7
Public administration bodies shall uphold the rule of law during proceedings and shall take all necessary steps to clarify the facts of a case and to resolve it, having regard to the public interest and the legitimate interests of members of the public.

Article 77.
§ 1. The public administration body is required to comprehensively collect and examine all evidential material.
§ 2. At each stage of proceedings a body can amend, supplement or withdraw rulings made regarding the examination of evidence.
§ 3. An body conducting proceedings as a result of having been required to do so by the body having jurisdiction to settle the case (Article 52) may, on an ex officio basis or on application by one of the parties, hear new witnesses or experts on circumstances that form the objects of such proceedings.
§ 4. Universally accepted facts and facts known to the body ex officio do not require proof. Parties to proceedings should be informed of facts that are known to the body.

The SAC noted that the provisions of the IPL that provides the possibility to request the applicant by the PPO to submit comments or issue a statement, in fact, serve to define the limits of administrative case, such as defining what is to be examined by the PPO and to what extent this should occur. The PPO is required to make an invitation before taking a decision, therefore, before deciding on the matter. At this stage, it is possible to have the intervention of the parties, if, contrary to the intentions expressed in the request/application, the PPO, for example, does not cover by its activities of all elements of the case, or unreasonably restricts its borders.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 274/10

June 1st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 14 March 2005, the Polish company PMB S.A. from Białystok applied for “dębowa mocno wędzona” (oak heavily smoked) trade mark Z-292377, for goods in class 29 such as meats, smoked products and offal products.

The Polish Patent Office denied to grant a right of protection and PMB filed a complaint to the administrative court. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in a judgment of 14 April 2010, case file VI SA/Wa 274/10, rejected the complaint. According to the Court, in this case, the PPO correctly held that PMB has not shown that the sign has acquired distinctiveness. As it was clear from case files, the only evidence provided by PMB was statements of sales of products marked with the questioned sign as of January 2005. The issue of acquisition of secondary meaning (acquired distinctiveness) is taken into account together with all the circumstances of the presence of a sign on the market, including such as: market share, the intensity, geographical extent, duration of the use of a trade mark, investments in advertising, the percentage of a relevant group of customers who recognize the sign as an indication of origin from a particular entrepreneur, etc. Such evidences must come prior to the date of filing of a trademark application with the Polish Patent Office. The Court commented on the Community case law in which the evidence of secondary meaning is also allowed from the period after the date of trade mark application, if they show that acquired distinctiveness already existed at that date.

This judgment is not yet final. A cassation complaint may be filed to the Supreme Administrative Court.