Archive for: Art. 132(2)(ii) IPL

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1242/11

March 26th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 23 March 2008, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative 3D trade mark PŁ 1764 R-205770, that was applied for by the Polish company Fabryka Wódek POLMOS ŁAŃCUT S.A, for goods in Class 33 such as vodka. The trade mark represents a glass bottle with a blade of grass put inside, and the crest on the bottle.

R-205770

POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK S.A., the company that was the owner of the word-figurative trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081, registered with the earlier priority of 30 August 1985, for goods in Class 33, filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed similarity of signs and identicality of goods. The Company argued that a blade of grass identifies its product’s image, and the long-term presence on the market caused that the trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081 created the belief of the recipients of this type of goods, that the alcoholic product with a grass motif comes from POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. The Company also claimed that its trade mark is the reputed one, and provided rich evidence material including certificates of quality and market position of vodka sold in bottles with a blade of grass, market research results and reports confirming a strong position of trade marks owned by POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, as well as articles published in specialized trade magazines. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed that POLMOS ŁAŃCUT acted in bad faith because its strategy and intention was to create and to file for the right of protection for a product that would look like the brand of “Żubrówka” vodka, by giving it a full set of protected characteristics of the trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081, and this situation happened long before the filing date of the questioned sign.

R-62081

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office dismissed the request and decided that the comparision of POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA and PŁ 1764 trade marks gave no similarities. The blade of grass inside a bottle may give potential customers certain associations that it is a vodka based on wisent grass. The PPO relied on the provisions of § 3 of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of 25 January 2007 on the definition of requirements for certain spirit drinks with geographical indications relating to the Polish territory, which specifies requirements for a spirit drink “Herbal Vodka from the North Podlasie Lowland aromatised with an extract of visent grass. The PPO has decided that the vodka producers could use the trade marks containing a blade of grass to indicate the type of vodka. The PPO ruled that these signs are examples of commonly used vodka bottles that were sold in the 80s and 90s of the last century. Such bottles are also present in considerable numbers in the Polish market. Thus, these signs per se do not possess distinctive characteristics. The Adjudicative Board noted that legal commentators emphasizes that the packaging of a product is now deemed as a “silent salesman”, and its appearance affects decisions of customers. A distinctive and visually appealing packaging may cause the client to choose the particular product. The PPO cited K. Jasińska, Naśladownictwo opakowań produktów markowych w świetle prawa własności intelektualnej (in English: Imitation of packagings of branded products in the light of intellectual property rights), Warszawa 2010. The PPO found these arguments relevant to the package created by POLMOS ŁAŃCUT which, in PPO’s opinion differs from other packages available on the market. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 August 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1242/11 repealed the contested decision and ruled it unenforceable. The VAC decided that the analysis of similarity between the signs including its reputation, in this case, was not exhaustive. The PPO did not consider the dominant elements that draw the attention of the buyer. Although PPO stated that the compared trade marks are 3D signs, but the examination of these elements was reduced to comparison of packages only, i.e. bottles. Although, the PPO stated that as a principle, the visual aspect of a 3D sign, is the shape of package and its content, but these two issues (the shape and contents) were separated in the analysis carried out in this case. The Court found that the long time existence of the characteristic element of 3D signs owned by Polmos Bialystok that were intended for designating vodka products and alcoholic beverages – a blade of grass placed in a simple, transparent bottle, as a whole can easily sink into the minds of customers and build the strength that distinguishes this kind of packagings. The Court pointed out that POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK provided evidence that the original żubrówka can be recognized by a wisent grass blade in the bottle. This would mean that for consumers, contrary to the assessment of the PPO, this 3D element constitutes the dominant part of the trade mark, and it can also influence the perception of the trade mark reputation and the need for protection against dilution. The VAC noted that this case involved more than 20-year presence in the market of a bottle with a grass inside, that was associated with POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. However, in situation, when the package is transparent, placing a characteristic element inside of the packaging, determines distinctiveness of the whole sign, e.g. two similar bottles. The distinctive 3D form – a blade of grass in the bottle increases the message of each of the word trade marks, brings more originality to signs that are protected for over 20 years. There was no doubt that the floating grass in the bottle is the original message that distinguishes the goods of POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, and is attributed to the origin of goods produced by this particular company. It was impossible to overlook the fact that consumers are seeing a bottle with a characteristic blade of grass, that is associated by them not only with visent vodka, but they also have a guarantee that this is the original product whose reputation was proved by complex evidence. This means that customers choose a product, guided by the attractiveness of its form, because they “see” in this product a trade mark that originates from POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, whose quality is known to them. The fact is that all signs have a distinctive element. The Polish Patent Office erred by not attaching any importance to it, despite the fact that POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK was the first company that introduced to market a product with such a distinctive element: a long blade of visent grass.

See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2038/09“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1378/10

March 12th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office had refused to grant the right of protection for the word trade mark PUCHATEK CHOCO Z-321348 filed by Lubella Sp. z o.o. sp. kom. ak., for goods in Class 30. Lubella provided a letter of consent, which had been granted by Maspex Sp. z o.o., the owner of the prior-registered trade marks that include word element PUCHATEK. The PPO decided that it cannot consider the letter of consent, inter alia, for the reason that commercial relationships between the entities are not permanent. The use of a letter of consent in such a case could potentially cause problems when dealing with its withdrawal when the cooperation between the entities has ceased to exist. The PPO also remind that the Polish Industrial Property law provides for the institution of the letter of consent, only to signs whose protection lapsed. Lubella filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 July 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 600/10. Lubella filed a cassation complaint.

R-159163

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 December 2011 case file II GSK 1378/10 upheld the questioned judgment. The Court agreed with the PPO that Lubella was a different legal entity from the right holder of earlier trade marks that were considered as similar. The Court noted that it should be always borne in mind that the task of a trade mark is to distinguish the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. The trade mark has to fulfill the function of determination of origin. This function is expressed objectively by commodity/goods, to which the sign is assigned, and it provides the consumer an idea about the qualities of a particular product, and subjectively i.e. the trade mark belongs to a given undertaking based on the right of protection that was granted to him or her, and it lets for the identification of the goods with the source that is indicated abstractly or by name. The protected trade mark should prevent from the risk of confusion on the part of consumers, because on the one hand it protects the economic interests of entitled entrepreneur, on the other hand it is aimed at consumers, in order to distinguish the origin of the goods. The SAC also reminded after the VAC that the Polish Patent Office does not examine the way in which the trademark is used on the market, except for its reputation, notoriety or secondary meaning i.e. acquired distinctiveness. The examination of a trade mark application is carried out in abstracto, that is, in isolation from market conditions.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2041/11

February 15th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sfinks Polska S.A. requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the rights of protection for word-figurative trade mark CLEOPATRA R-153234 owned by Restauracja CLEOPATRA Bachar Aziz from Lublin. Sfinks Polska owns earlier registered word-figurative trade mark SPHINX R-105162.

R-153234

Sfinks claimed that the trade mark CLEOPATRA R-153234 is similar to its trade mark and argued that it has legal interest in this proceedings as there is a possibility of misleading customers based on the similarity of trade marks. This could be particularly applicable considering the fact that SPHINX trade mark is already known on the market and, therefore, it has a stronger distinctive ability. Sfinks also argued that Bachar Aziz filed its trade mark in bad faith with an intent to use the reputation of Sfinks’ trade marks by suggesting a common origin from a single entity.

R-105162

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request and decided that the trade marks, in this case, are different in all aspects. Sfinks Polska S.A. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 27 December 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 112/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly decided that there are visible differences in both signs. The VAC also ruled that the application for a trade in bad faith may occur in a situation in which the applicant is linked with the owner of the earlier sign with a special relationship of trust resulting, for example, from cooperation contracts or agreements. The trade mark can be filed in bad faith in order to acquire a financial extortion from the owner of an earlier sign, or to gain control of that entity, or to force the conclusion of the license agreement, etc. The trade mark can be also filed in bad faith with the intention to block the use of the prior sign or in order to acquire of the market position of the holder of the earlier mark. However, the allegation of bad faith trade mark application has not been proven by Sfinks Polska S.A.

See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 112/11“.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 500/11

January 30th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On July 2008, Barbara Hildman requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection of the word-figurative trade mark BIKINI CHRISTIAN DIOR PARIS R-175224 owned by Parfums Christian Dior from Paris, and registered for goods in Class 03 such as body and face care products. Barbara Hildman argued that BIKINI CHRISTIAN DIOR PARIS R-175224 is similar to the trade mark BIKINI R-124158 registered with an earlier priority.

R-175224

Parfums Christian Dior admitted that the trade mark at issue was registered for similar range of goods, but the disputed sign has other distinctive elements such as CHRISTIAN DIOR and a colorful label, which proves that there is no risk of consumers’ confusion. Moreover, the Company argued that the contested mark containing the element CHRISTIAN DIOR is produced and marketed by the producer of luxury goods and it is basically identical to the well-known and reputable company name of the holder – Parfums Christian Dior. These products, as exclusive goods, are always sold at exposed places clearly marked with the company name “Christian Dior”, which reduces to zero the possibility of confusion with cosmetic products to other companies.

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office dismissed the request. PPO decided that there is no likelihood of confusion, also, because the questioned trade mark is a carrier of the allure, prestigious image and aura of luxury. The combination of the weak trade mark BIKINI with a strong and recognizable sign CHRISTIAN DIOR PARIS, completely eliminates the risk of confusion between the compared trade marks by the oriented and attentive consumer.

Barbara Hildman filed a complaint against this decision. She argued that merging of the word BIKINI with the words “CHRISTIAN DIOR PARIS” and a graphic element, is like appropriation of someone else’s trade mark. The creation of trade marks by adding to them a company name and its seat distorts the nature and function of a trade mark, because each sign could be easily imitated, only adding a company name to such a sign, and in that case the registration of the earlier mark would be quite superfluous and without legal significance.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 41/11 repealed the contested decision and returned it to the PPO for further reconsideration. The Court ruled that the PPO did not properly examine the similarity of goods. There were no comparison on „which shelf” these identical goods are placed and who is their recipient, which in consequence it does not exclude the risk of association of the earlier trade mark with the later one. The Polish Patent Office did not consider that the necessary condition for the likelihood of confusion is at least the minimum similarity between compared trade marks. The lack of examination of this condition would mean that the company Christian Dior, or any other reputable or well-known company – due to its brand recognition, is granted the possibility to “append” to a recognizable name, or names – of any signs that are protected with earlier priority, and presenting it as their own. This would also mean illusory protection for an earlier trade mark in a situation where the reputable sign would build the family of marks, without prejudice to its recognition, just by adding a known company name or surname to any sign. In any of such cases, the appropriation by the prestigious brand of less known earlier trade marks, would show that their position and earlier protection do not apply and such protection has not been given any legal effect, and each of such a character – compared with the prestige trade mark, would have been assessed as having weak distinctive ability.

The Polish Patent Office in its decision of 19 January 2012 case Sp. 500/11 invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark BIKINI CHRISTIAN DIOR PARIS R-175224.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 586/11

January 2nd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark @ @lfanet Z-331247 applied for by @ALFANET Marcin Małolepszy from Borowo Kolonia for for goods and services in Classes 09, 37, 38, 42 and 45.

Z-331247

The PPO decided that the applied trade mark is similar to the word trade mark ALFANET R-145012 registered with the earlier priority for the Polish company ALPHANET sp. z o.o. for services in class 38. The PPO did not agree with the applicant that ALFANET sign has weak distinctive character. Although the ending “net” is not distinctive for services related to the IT industry, but combined with the word “alpha”, it creates a neologism, which can be deemed as a fanciful sign.

Mr Małolepszy filed a complaint against the decision of the PPO, arguing that grant of a right of protection for a trade mark in respect of specific goods should not constitute an autonomous ground for refusal to grant a right of protection for a trade mark in respect of the goods identical or similar to those of another undertaking for a sole reason that the trade mark contains an identical or similar sign which refers to personal interests, in particular the owner’s name.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 586/11 dismissed the complaint and held that the argument that the applicant relied on is an exception to the rule of inadmissibility of the coexistence of similar signs, and as such can not be broadly interpreted, and it should be applied with caution, taking into account not only the ratio legis, but also the principles provided in the Polish Industrial Property Law, that relate to trade marks and their basic functions. Although the provisions of Article 135 of the IPL, in contrast to previous regulations, do not include the condition that the applied trade mark should not be misleading, but, in the opinion of the Court, the interpretation that would lead to the registration of two identical or similar trade marks for identical goods and/or services, could not be accepted.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 723/11

December 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trademark citibank handlowy R-190720, for the American company Citibank, N.A., a National Banking Association. In 2008, Citigroup Inc. applied for the word trade mark CITI HANDLOWY Z-337716.

R-190720

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection, despite the fact that Citibank N.A. is the sole shareholder of the Citigroup Inc., and Citigroup Inc. provided a letter of consent from its parent company. The PPO decided that both signs would mark very similar goods and services and are directed to the same audience. There is also visuall similarity, caused by common elements. The PPO noted that it is not obliged to take into account the letter of consent issued by Citibank, N.A. Citigroup Inc. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 723/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly examined all evidence and properly decided on the similarity of signs. The VAC noted that that letters of consent may be evidence in proceedings, but they do not bind the PPO. The VAC pointed to the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 279/07. The SAC held that a letter of consent cannot be used as ground to register a trade mark since the Republic of Poland did not implement Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1236/11

December 6th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

LEK, tovarna farmacevtskih in kemicnih izdelkov filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection for the word trade mark KETOGEL R-190416 registered for Polpharma S.A. for goods such as pharmaceuticals. LEK argued that KETOGEL is similar to its word trade mark KETONAL. The PPO dismissed the opposition, and LEK filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1236/11 dismissed it. The court noted that in case of the assesment of similarities between trade marks, the number of syllables, their sound and touch have the importance in deciding on phonetic similarity. Visual similarity is assessed in terms of number of words or letters in general, the number of words or letters of the same type, their shape, layout and color. Consequently, a sign containing an altered distinctive element, even if there is some resemblance to other parts, will not be similar. The Court took into account the specificity of the pharmaceutical market, and excluded the likelihood of confusion in this case.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 875/11

October 27th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Juliusz Marek Nabiałek who owns the word-figurative trade mark Platan R-210901, filed a request for invalidation of the word-figurative trade mark PLATANUS OGRODY NATURALNE R-210602 registered for Przemysław Sochański. Mr. Nabiałek claimed that both signs are similar and cause the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods and services, especially since most goods and services are identical.

R-210901

Mr. Sochański claimed that he cooperated with Mr. Nabiałek in years 2001-2005. He emphasized that Mr. Nabiałek, without his knowledge or consent registered the trade mark Platan in 1995, but it was the name of a company that was founded by Sochański. In March 2007, he learned about this registration when he was served with the cease and desist letter prohibiting the use of the name Platan. Therefore, Sochański applied on 15 March 2007, for the right of protection for PLATANUS OGRODY NATURALNE trade mark. Therefore, he thought that the request for invalidation is a malicious and solely personal action. Mr Nabiałek decided to narrow the request only for services in Class 42 such as services in architecture, biological research, advice on environment protection. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. Sochański filed a complaint against this decision.

R-210602

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 875/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable. The Court ruled that both trade marks are not similar and the similarity of goods and services is reduced only to their common numbering according to the Nice Classification. The VAC ruled that there was violation of the provisions of the administrative procedure, because the PPO did not consider all of the evidence required to decide the case, and has not indicated why certain facts were accepted as proven, and why others were denied the credibility and probative value.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 262/11

October 2nd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to recognize the protection of the FERRERO OPERA IR-0891152 trade mark owned by SOREMARTEC S.A. The PPO decided that there are already registered similar or identical trade marks owned by Ferrero S.p.A.

SOREMARTEC argued that there is no real risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods bearing signs question, due to the fact that these trade marks are owned by closely related companies, and the goods are produced by all companies according to uniform quality standards. The Company presented documents confirming relationship between the companies, and submitted also a letter of consent.

The PPO agreed that there are regulations on letters of consent provided in the Polish Industrial Property Law. According to this provisions the owner of a lapsed trade mark may agree for a registration of a new trade mark, but the Polish legislator did not foresee similar rules relating to the signs remaining in force. However, and this is not a legal loophole. This rule is clear and there are no doubts. There’s an exception to that rule but it is very limited and it should not be interpreted broadly. As the PPO noted this is a classic example of a positive-negative regulation that is used in the legislation. As a contrario interpretation, Article 133 of the IPL sets two standards: a positive – that permits registration of the trade mark after obtaining the consent of the owner of an earlier mark that has lapsed, and negative – it does not allow for consent letters for the other collision (i.e. with signs of remaining in force, renown, reputed signs, etc.).

Article 132
1. A right of protection shall not be granted for a trade mark in respect of identical or similar goods, if the trade mark is identical or similar to:
(iii) a trade mark earlier registered in the Republic of Poland, whose registration has terminated, provided that an interval between the date of lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark and the date on which a similar trade mark has been applied for by another party, is, subject to Article 133, no longer than two years.

Article 133
The provision of Article 132(1)(iii) shall not apply where the protection has terminated under Article 169(1)(i) or the right holder of the earlier right has given his consent for the later trade mark being granted a right of protection.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 279/07 supported this interpretation. The SAC ruled that the provision of Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104 has not been implemented into Polish law, and it was futile to rely on the infringement of this provision, because such a consent has not the legal effect under Polish law. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 279/07“. The examination system was adopted for the registration of trade marks in Poland. Letters of consent do not eliminate the risk of consumers’ confusion as to the origin of goods. This fact must therefore be taken into consideration during the examination of applied trade marks. The sign has to distinguish one entrepreneur from another entrepreneurs. The capital group is the association of many entrepreneurs linked to each other in different ways. If the goods are actually marketed by such a group and do not cause the confusion of consumers, the institution of a joint right of protection. The obligatory regulations governing use of trade marks adopted by the undertakings who have jointly applied for the trade mark protection, ensures that the signs will not be misleading at the time of filing the trade mark application, but also during their existance on the market. However, one can not assume in advance that the signs coming from companies that are linked organizationally and financially do not mislead consumers. There always will be a risk of consumers’ confusion. During the application proceedings, it is not possible for the PPO to examine the policy of big companies in order to identify the origin of each product offered. Therefore, if a number of separate legal entities want to use a similar trade mark, they must, in accordance with Polish law, to use the institution of a joint right of protection or simply trade mark licenses. There is no legal justification to treat the origin of signs from companies linked organizationally and financially as a guarantee of the absence of the risk of consumers confusions as to the origin of these goods.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 262/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable. The VAC agreed with the PPO that in principle, the mere letter of consent that was issued by a company that was unrelated organizationally and/or legally with entitled to the trade mark application, is not a basis for registration of a mark identical or similar. However, this document was not the only document on which SOREMARTEC relied to demonstrate the lack of the risk of conumers’ confusion. When examining the collected evidence material the PPO completely ignored the fact that the applicant has a number of trade marks with the word element “Ferrero” including signs from the earlier priority than the opposed trade marks. In addition, the VAC noted that SOREMARTEC owns trade marks containing the “Ferrero” element which were registered by the PPO on the basis of letters of consent.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1901/10

July 15th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark VILLA PARK WESOŁA R-171029 owned by “VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. The request was filed by MPM PRODUCT Spółka z o.o. the owner of the word trade mark “villa park” R-139436 that was registered with an earlier priority. MPM filed also a civil suit against “VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. claiming the infringement of its trade mark rights. However, the court dismissed the injunction.

R-171029

“VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. decided to file a complaint against the decision of the PPO. The Company claimed inter alia that even a civil court shared the company’s argument stating that there is no risk of confusion in a group of relevant recipients of services bearing the trademarks at issue.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 March 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1901/10 dismissed the complaint and ruled that, undoubtedly, the Polish Patent Office, while considering the specific case at issue, acts under certain laws and regulations. In such situation one must understand that the PPO does not decide on the case based upon the judgments of the courts. This, of course, does not mean that if the specific circumstances of the case allow for taking into account the judgment, the Patent Office may not decide on a case in accordance with a convergent judicial decision issued in a similar case. This judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 112/11

July 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sfinks Polska S.A. from Łódź requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the rights of protection for word-figurative trade mark R-179260 owned by Restauracja CLEOPATRA Bachar Aziz from Lublin. Sfinks Polska is the owner of the earlier registered word-figurative trade mark SPHINX R-105162.

R-105162

Sfinks claimed that the trade mark CLEOPATRA R-179260 is similar to its trade mark and argued that it has legal interest in this proceedings as there is a possibility of misleading customers based on the similarity of trade marks. This may be particularly applicable considering the fact that SPHINX trade mark is already known on the market and, therefore, it has a stronger distinctive ability. Sfinks also argued that Bachar Aziz filed its trade mark in bad faith with an intent to use the reputation of Sfinks’ trade marks by suggesting a common origin from a single entity.

R-179260

Bachar Aziz requested the PPO to dismiss the case. He argued the Sfinks lacks legal interest in the invalidation proceedings. Moreover, he noted that the signs, in this case, are different conceptually and phonetically. The characters are not visually similar, the earlier trade mark has the form of a sphinx (face of a man resembling an ancient sculpture) and the sign in question shows a woman’s face (Cleopatra). Mr Aziz also noted that designation of the same services by these trade marks is not sufficient to determine the risk of common origin. In this regard, he relied on the collision-free existence of the two signs on the markets in Płock and Łódź. He pointed that other businesses use the representation of the Sphinx to designate their restaurants.

The Polish Patent Office in its decision case Sp. 396/08 dismissed the request. The PPO held that the trade marks, in this case, are different in all aspects. While assessing the risk of confusion of the recipients of the services offered by the parties to the proceedings, the PPO ruled that customers of restaurants do not act on impulse as shoppers do. When choosing the restaurant they base their actions on good knowledge of the place, recommendation or advertising, so, first of all, they choose a place based on the name, thus, it is the verbal layer of a trade mark (the name of restaurant), not the graphic element, that will be critical to their selection. Sfinks filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 112/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable based on entirely different circumstances that one could expect. At the hearing before the Court on 3 June 2011, Sfinks’s trade mark attorney argued that she was not present at the hearing on 16 June 2010 in the Polish Patent Office on the ground that the notice of the hearing was set at 11:00 a.m. and a hearing was held on at 10:00 a.m. Therefore, Sfinks could not be represented properly, as its representative was not able to submit evidence. The Court held that Sfinks did not participate in proceedings through no fault of its own and such situation was a violation of the provisions of the Polish Administrative Proceedings Code. The judgement is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2623/10

June 15th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 April 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 2623/10 ruled that, during proceedings for invalidation of the right of protection for trade mark, the applicant should be required to participate actively in evidence proceedings. It should be also noted that in the literature and the case-law on the grounds of general administrative proceedings, it is assumed that the party is not exempted from the obligation to participate actively in the process of gathering evidence, particularly when not proving certain actual circumstances can lead to results unfavorable to the party.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 207/10

May 21st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 27 May 2008, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trade mark FORTUNA WARZYWNA KAROTKA STANOWCZA Z TABASCO I KOLENDRĄ R-209338. This sign was applied for by the Polish company Agros Nova sp. z o.o. from Warsaw for goods in class 32 such as juices, nectars and vegetable beverages, multi-vegetable nectars and vegetable beverages with the addition of micro and/or macroelements and/or vitamins and/or substance supporting the metabolic processes and/or flavorings, spices and herbs, sports and energy drinks, products for production of beverages: extracts, essences and concentrates, seasonings, and syrups, instant drinks.

Mc Ilhenny Company filed a request for invalidation of Agros’ trade mark. Mc Ilhenny is the owner of the word trade mark TABASCO R-51500 registered with the earlier priority of 24 March 1973, in class 30 for pepper sauce.

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 11 May 2011 case no. Sp. 207/10 dismissed the request. The PPO ruled that there is no likelihood of confusion between both trade marks because Agros’ trade mark is a label with rich graphics, where the words “karotka” and “fortuna” are located in a central position, and the word “Tabasco” is placed below and it’s not a dominant element of the whole sign. It only appears at the bottom of the label, and is written in a small font. This decision is not final yet. A complaint can be brought to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 352/08

April 29th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Prywatne Biuro Podróży Sindbad Ryszard Wójcik from Opole, requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the word-figurative trade mark SINDBAD HOTELE R-172657 registered in Class 40 and 43 for services such as photographic film development and printing and accommodation and reservations, and owned by Przedsiębiorstwa Handlowo-Usługowego Sindbad s.c. Michał Ząbroń, Roman Mandyna from Kraków. Ryszard Wojcik is the holder of the word-figurative trade mark SINDBAD R-77988 registered with the earlier priority in Class 35 and 39 for services such as transporting of passengers and goods by car, organization of tourist trips, travel agencies and advertising agencies.

R-172657

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 18 April 2010 case no. Sp. 352/08 invalidated the right of protection. The PPO held that there exists similarity of the signs and services. As for services, the PPO said that accommodation and travel agency services are related. This decision is not final yet. A complaint can be brought to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1860/10

April 21st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 20 December 2006, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark O’LEARY R-180416 applied for by Piotr Kasprzycki PPH Eveline Cosmetics from Lesznowola for goods in Class 03 such as skin, hair and body care products for children, women and men, mascaras, creams, lotions, shampoos, soaps, gels baths, creams and gels, cosmetics, perfumery, and cleansing tissues and goods in Class 05 such as medicinal cosmetics.

R-65340

French company L’OREAL Societe Anonyme filed a request for invalidation. L’Oreal owns the word trade mark L’OREAL R-42203 registered with the earlier priority of 5 May 1960 for goods in Class 03 such as perfumery and cosmetics, toilet soaps, lipsticks, products for oral care, hair coloring agents, shampoos. The Company also owns the word-figurative trade mark L’OREAL STUDIO LINE R-65340 registered with the priority of 24 November 1988 for goods in Class 03. The French company argued that its trade marks are well-known and reputed. It presented a survey of consumers in the years 2001-2003, which proved the knowledge of the brand and consumer trust in the products. L’OREAL was the brand that has won numerous awards. The company argued that some of the goods are identical other are similar and raised an argument that the trade mark application was made in bad faith. The company relied on the judgment of the French court, which forbade the company that was created by Piotr Kasprzycki in France, the violations of trade marks and company name of L’Oreal, by the use of the name O’LEARY. L’OREAL also claimed the company created by Mr Kasprzycki was fictitious becuase its capital was 1 euro.

R-151141

O’LEARY argued that its trade Mark Has Irish origins and the average consumer is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect. O’LEARY admitted that L’Oreal is a strong and very distinguishable brand and the consumer who buys these cosmetics will not pay attention to the other cheaper products. O’LEARY noted that since the French court judgment has been appealed, so the case has not been finally decided. In its opinion, the proceedings in France is not relevant in the proceedings before the Polish Patent Office.

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 16 March 2010 case no. Sp. 251/08 invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark O’LEARY. The PPO ruled that O’LEARY is confusingly similar to L’OREAL. Piotr Kasprzycki PPH Eveline Cosmetics filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 April 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1860/10 agreed with the PPO and dismissed the case. The judgment is not final yet. The cassation complaint can be brought before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1850/10

March 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1850/10 noted the trade mark law of Western countries has developed the principle that in the event of a conflict between two signs all doubts should be decided in favor of the owner of a trade mark with the earlier priority. This principle is a simple consequence of the belief that the entrepreneur who choose a trade mark that will be used for marking the same type of goods and that is similar to the mark with an earlier priority, is acting at his or her own risk and all uncertainties should be decided against him/her.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 56/10

March 25th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office registered the word trade mark TRIMEGAL R-177593 for Farmaceutyczna Spółdzielnia Pracy GALENA for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceutical preparations. NOVARTIS AG filed a notice of opposition. The Swiss company claimed TRIMEGAL is similar to its trade mark TRILEPTAL IR-0560245 registered for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceuticals. The PPO dismissed it. Novartis decided to file a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 August 2009 case file akt VI SA/Wa 581/09 dismissed it, and NOVARTIS filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 January 2011 case file II GSK 56/10 held that in the case of the final recipients of pharmaceuticlas that are labeled with TRIMEGAL or TRILEPTAL trade marks it is hard to tell about the existence of likelihood/risk of confusion. The Court noted that it should be remembered that these signs are used for the determination of drugs that are used for different illnesses such as heart disease and epilepsy. Patients who are suffering from such illnesses are deemed according to the SAC as the “aware consumers” of their prescription drugs. Moreover, the so-called “post-sale risk of confusion” can be considered only when the patient with epilepsy, also suffers from heart disease, because only then in his medicine cabinet at home can be found both drugs bearing this two marks in question. The differences between both marks are sufficient to exclude any risk of confusion and to ensure the existence of the two signs on the market without any collision. Therefore, the view that TRIMEGAL is similar to TRILEPTAL in a way that excludes the possibility of distinguishing this two signs, in fact, would limit the possibility to use other trademarks with the informational prefix TRI- (triple).

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1104/10

March 17th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

DOMAIN MENADA Sp. z o.o. applied for the right of protection for the word trade mark “TCHERGA – ŻYJ KOLOROWO” for goods in Class 33 such as alcoholic beverages (except beers). The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection because it found similarity with the earlier trade mark TCHERGA IR-0829406 owned by Droujestvo S Ogranitchena Otgovornnost BELVEDERE Capital Management.

 IR-0829406

DOMAIN MENADA pointed out that it is a controlled company and the Bulgarian entrepreneur is the controlling one, where both enterprises form a homogeneous capital group and remain inseparable commercial contacts and in the interest of both parties is that DOMAIN MENADA is granted the right of protection for a trademark in question and a letter of consent signed by the Bulgarian company was a proof of such an approach. DOMAIN MENADA argued that the same evidence was brought in case of the “TCHERGA CRAZY FOR COLOUR” trade mark R-196255, in which the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection.

The PPO noted that all relationships between entrepreneurs, can only be the basis for granting a license to use the trade mark. The provisions allowing for a letter of consent in relation to the trade mark rights remaining in force are not provided in Polish law. The Polish Industrial Property law introduced regulations on a letter of consent in a limited extent in the case of applying for the right of protection for a trade mark in respect of identical or similar goods, if the trade mark is identical or similar to a trade mark earlier registered in the Republic of Poland, whose registration has terminated. The right holder of the earlier right may give his/her consent for the later trade mark being granted a right of protection. The PPO noted that the TCHERGA CRAZY FOR COLOUR R-196255 was registered before the Supreme Administrative Court rendered a judgment case file II GSK 279/07. The SAC held that a letter of consent cannot be used as ground to register a trade mark since Poland did not implement Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 279/07“. Domain Menada filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 12 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1104/10 dismissed it and ruled that capital or organizational or personal links between enterprises cannot justify and serve as the sole reason for granting the right of protection for a trademark.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2168/10

March 16th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Red Bull GmbH filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection to the “red dragon” trade mark R-179732 registered for DODONI Roman Górzyński, Marek Górzyński, Marcin Górzyński sp.j for goods in Class 32 such as mineral waters and non-alcoholic beverages. Red Bull claimed that “red dragon” is similar to its RED BULL R-207549, RED BULL ENERGY DRINK IR-0715531 and the CTM RED. Red Bull based its opposition on the reputation of these trade marks. The PPO dismissed the opposition and ruled that the opposed trade marks, despite the identical word element “red”, are different at all levels of perception, i.e., aural, verbal and conceptual, so that they produce a completely different impression on the average customer. These signs also have other verbal elements and the word “red” is present in other trade marks registered for goods in Class 32. In view of significant differences between opposed trade marks that excluded the risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods, the PPO decided that the reputation of Red Bull’s trade marks enjoyed on the Polish market is not relevant for the assessment of the risk of consumers confusion. Red Bull filed a complaint to the administrative court.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 2168/10 dismissed the complaint. The court agreed with the PPO that the consumer who does not speak English will perceive RED BULL and RED BULL ENERGY DRINK as fanciful trade marks, and “red dragon” composed in part with the fanciful word “red” and in part of the Polish word of some specific meaning (Dragoon – mounted infantry or as a tall, stout, vigorous, sprawling woman) will be perceived differently. The court held that since the opposed trade marks are not similar, therefore the registration of “red dragon” R-179732 will not bring unfair advantage to DODONI or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of Red Bull’s trademarks.

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 VI SA/Wa 1936/10

February 4th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition against the registration of the trademark TARGA R-189862 owned by the Polish company VALVEX S.A.. The request was filed by Aloys F. Dornbracht GmbH & Co. KG. The German company based the opposition proceedings on the CTM TARA no. 827659.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1936/10 ruled that the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods or/and the manufacturer must be examined globally, taking into account all elements relevant. These elements include in particular: the degree of recognition of the earlier trade mark on the market, an association that may occur between that trade mark and the opposed trademark of another entrepreneur, the degree of similarity between the signs and goods and services. The Court agreed with the PPO that the goods covered by both trade marks were similar and of the same kind. These goods were directed mainly to professionals in the field of sanitary installations, construction or architectural design. The VAC found that these consumers were specialists with an above-average degree of product awareness, who purchased the products at issue in specialized points of retail or wholesale. With regard to the remaining consumers (i.e., non-professionals), the Court pointed out that the goods at issue were not likely to be bought impulsively. The Court found that TARGA and TARA were both simple, and easy to read, pronounce and remember. These signs are composed of four or five letters, and the first three letters ‘TAR’ and the last letter ‘A’ are identical. The trademark TARGA contains an additional letter ‘G’. Both marks are short, so the letter ‘G’ will be easily noticed and heard by consumers. The court found that the additional letter ‘G’ would have an impact on the perception of the marks. Where the trademarks concerned are short, one different letter is in general sufficient to exclude similarity.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1650/10

January 24th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office received a request for the conversion of the CTM FOX Petroli S.p.a. application no. 002672533. This sign was applied for the good in Class 4 such as petroleum, industrial oils and greases, lubricants, fuel (including motor spirits). The PPO refused to grant the right of protection because it found similarity between the applied sign and the word trade mark FOX-OIL R-96049 and word-figurative trade mark FOX-OIL R-96843, both registered for goods in Classes 04, 19 and 39 and owned by FOX-OIL I. Olszewska, W. Okoniewski Spółka jawna from Gdańsk. The PPO ruled that the signs share the same word element, and in case of figurative elements, the word FOX has been particularly exposed. FOX Petroli S.p.a. filed a complaint against this decisions.

CTM 002672533

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1650/10 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the average consumer of a particular type of goods is perceived as a person who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect.

R-96843

The Court confirmed also the consistent opinion that the level of the average consumer’s perception may vary depending on the type of goods or services. The VAC held that the goods belonging to the group of petroleum due to the development of technology (including automotive) are treated as everyday use goods.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1127/10

January 13th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

POSTI S.A. applied for the word-figurative trade mark “POSTI Fitea man HERBATKA WSPOMAGAJĄCA ODCHUDZANIE z owocem z czarnego bzu i anyżem doskonały smak świetny efekt” Z-334117 for foods in Classes 05 and 30. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection. The PPO ruled that there exist similarity between applied sign and the word-figurative trade mark “fittea” R-178995 owned by “BIOFLUID” Spółka Jawna from Górki Małe. POSTI filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-334117

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 November 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1127/10 anulled the decision. The Court ruled that the PPO examined only verbal elements of both signs. The VAC ruled that the main distinguishing element of marked goods or services is, in principle, the word, because the recipient usually remember the sign and the marked product (service) based on the verbal element/s.

R-178995

However, the principle of the dominant meaning of the word elements in the combined trade marks is fully applicable, particularly when figurative and 3D elements have less distinctive character, or are completely devoid of this ability. This judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1126/10

January 12th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

POSTI S.A. applied for the word-figurative trade mark “POSTI Fitea HERBATKA WSPOMAGAJĄCA ODCHUDZANIE Z ANANASEM I CZERWONYM GREJPFRUTEM” Z-334116 for foods in Classes 05 and 30. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection. The PPO ruled that there exist similarity between applied sign and the word-figurative trade mark “fittea” R-178995 owned by “BIOFLUID” Spółka Jawna from Górki Małe. POSTI filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-334116

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 November 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1126/10 annulled questioned decisions. The Court ruled that the internal characteristics of the trade mark, including descriptive elements (or lack of such) of the goods and services for which it is registered, the market share of trade mark in question, the intensity and temporal and geographical scope of the use, investments in promotion and advertising, the percentage of relevant recipients, who because of the trade mark are able to identify products or services as originating from a particular company, must be taken into account when establishing the existence (or nonexistence) of recognition of the trade mark with an earlier priority.

R-178995

The Court ruled that the PPO should determine the mentioned above conditions and the outcome will help to assess the risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods which may occur if the protection was granted for the sign in question. The judgment is not yet final.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1124/10

January 11th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company GRAAL S.A. from Wejherowo applied for the word-figurative trade mark ERAFISH Z-340740 for goods in Classes 29 and 31. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for goods in Class 29. The PPO found that the applied sign is similar to the CTM EvraFish no. 4948618 owned by Stek-Rol. GRAAL filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-340740

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 September 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1124/10 dismissed the case. The Court held the risk of confusion is based on wrong, inaccurate attribution of goods bearing a given trade mark to a right holder by an average consumer. The more distinctive trade mark with the earlier priority is, and the goods or services bearing the marks compared are more similar, the bigger risk of confusion exist. However, when the signs are identical, and the similarity between the goods exists, there is a significant possibility of confusion, or association of both signs, even for professionals. The relationship between a particular product or service and the sign marking it is formed in the minds of buyers.

CTM-004948618.jpg

The Court also noted that the likelihood of misleading consumers as to the origin of products bearing similar trade mark increases with the degree of similarity of the signs. Therefore, the buyer may assume that the owners of such similar signs are in organizational or legal relationship. The existence in the course of trade of a similar trade mark may suggest that the sign is merely a variation of an earlier registered trade mark and comes from the same entity. This was even more dangerous, since both signs are intended to mark the same goods. If the signs are so similar and there are the same goods/services selected, one cannot exclude the confusion among the consumers of those goods because consumers do not always analyze the structure of the mark before selecting the provider of goods or services. GRAAL S.A filed a cassation complaint. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 413/11“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1072/10

January 5th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

NSE Products, Inc., the owner of the CTM CHOLESTIN no. 000447318 requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for CHOLESTERIN R-189581 trade mark owned by MEDICOFARMA Spółka z o.o. NSE claimed that both trade marks are similar which may cause the risk of consumers’ confusion, especially taking into account the fact that the goods are also confusingly similar (dietary supplements). These goods are purchased without a prescription, and often in places other than pharmacies. The PPO invalidated the right of protection and MEDICOFARMA filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 November 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1072/10 held that the provision the Polish Act on Industrial Property Law that prohibits the grant of the right of protection for a trademark that is identical or similar to a trademark for which a right of protection was granted or which has been applied for protection with an earlier priority date (provided that the latter is subsequently granted a right of protection) on behalf of another party for identical or similar goods, if a risk of misleading the public exists, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark, is intended to protect business transactions/economic turnover against the confusion as to the origin of goods. The registration of trade marks, by which there would be created the right, the scope of which at least partially overlaps with the scope of the registration with an earlier priority was unacceptable for the Court. The judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 601/10

December 21st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company Producent Okien i Drzwi z PVC “OKLAND” Joanna Wilk i Wojciech Wilk Spółka Jawna from Kostomłoty Pierwsze filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection for a word-figurative trade mark Okland R-154904 owned by OKLAND Spółka z o.o. from Rokitki, in regard to the goods in Class 19, wooden windows. The company from Kostomłoty Pierwsze claimed it operates since 1 June 1997. Its business activities include the production of windows and doors of PVC in the four southern voivodeships. The company argued that the simultaneous use of the OKLAND sign in its company name and as a trade mark registered for a different entrepreneur may increase the risk of misleading the public, which includes in particular the risk of association between signs. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. Okland from Rokitki filed a complaint against this decision.

R-154904

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 31 May 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 601/10 held that the registration of a trade mark that is identical or similar to a company name of another entrepreneur does not determine, however the infringement of the rights to the company name (the firm). The exclusive rights to the company name are not absolute. The limits of these rights are set by the coverage (territorial and objective) of the actual activity of a given company. The collision between identical or similar signs i.e. a company name and a trademark, may occur only within these limits. The judgment is not yet final.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 258/07

December 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Aveda Corporation from Minneapolis, filed an opposition to avea R-151914 trade mark owned by INTERSILESIA MCBRIDE POLSKA Sp. z o.o. from Strzelce Opolskie registered for goods in Class 03. Aveda Corporation argued that avea trade mark is similar to its earlier AVEDA R-131741 trade mark. The Polish Patent Office has dismissed the opposition arguing that although the cosmetics in class 03 are goods for everyday use, the consumers pay special attention before their purchase, they check the ingredients of these products and are often testing them. Moreover avea trade mark is a word-figurative mark so it is protected as a whole.

Aveda Corporation filed complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court, in its judgment of 23 February 2007, case file VI SA/Wa 2048/06 dismissed the case. The Court held, that there is no risk of misleading the potential consumers although the trade marks AVEA and AVEDA are intended for marking the same goods, namely cosmetic products in class 03. Moreover the Court has agreed with the PPO, that the overall impression that trade mark exerts on the potential consumer is the most important factor. Although both trademarks differ from each other only in one letter, the figurative element in avea trade mark has crucial meaning.

Aveda Corporation filed a cassation complaint against this decision. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 258/07 held, that the Voivodeship Court could have agreed with the Polish Patent Office that the fact that both trade marks consist of the same element “ave” does not have to mislead the potential consumer when the letter “d” in the middle of the trade mark AVEDA this influences different perception of the trade mark. Although it was argued that the overall impression of the word-figurative trade marks in which the dominant element is a word, depends generally on the number of letters and the structure of the word.

The Supreme Administrative Court held, that the average consumer perceives the trade mark as a whole and does not analyze its particular elements. Therefore small differences between the trade marks are not sufficient to exclude the risk of visual similarity, especially when the trademarks have the common structure. In this particular case, it was considered that without analyzing the details of AVEDA and avea trade marks, the average consumer would notice the differences between both trade marks.

In answer to request of the plaintiff to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, stating that currently in force, test of assessment of risk to mislead a consumer and associating of trade marks on the basis on the art. 4 paragraph 1 point b), art. 5 paragraph 1 point 5 of Directive still raise concerns and in consequence there are discrepancies in the judgments of courts and Polish Patent Office, based on the judgments of OHIM, the Supreme Court held, that question formulated in this way did not meet criteria of Article 187 § 1 of Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts, according to which if, during cognisantion of the cassation appeal, there would appear a legal issue, that will raise doubts, the Supreme Administrative Court may postpone the proceedings and introduce this issue to the Composition of seven judges of this Court for deciding.

Regarding the following question of plaintiff to the Court of Justice of European Union i.e. whether increased level of attention of the average consumer can be admitted regarding the goods of common use, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the answer to this question was not of vital importance to this matter, because even lack of higher level of attention of the average purchaser of cosmetics did not affect the assessment that in the subject case, during the assessment of the opposite trade marks there was no risk of misleading the potential consumers.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 299/10

November 15th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 14 March 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trade mark Oxford Wielka Historia Świata R-187352 for goods in Class 16 such as books and periodicals. The Polish company “Oxford Educational” sp. z o.o. from Słupsk was the applicant and the holder of the right of protection. The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford (Oxford University Press) filed a request for invalidation. The OUP argued that it is obvious to everyone that Oxford is a place uniquely associated by the public around the world with the home of a famous university. Therefore, marking the goods with a signs associated with Oxford – the seat of the famous University of Oxford – may mislead the public as to the true geographical origin of products. The OUP also pointed out that, with priority from 24 April 1995, is entitled to the rights of protection to three trade marks sharing the same verbal element, OXFORD, R-103399, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS R-102351 and OXFORD ENGLISH R-102350.

R-187352

The Polish company argued that the trade mark at issue does not refer to a geographical name of Oxford town, but to holder’s company name, and therefore it is not misleading. Oxford Educational also argued that the disputed sign was created in collaboration with an English company. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO ruled that the conflicting trade marks are registered for identical goods, therefore, there is a risk of misleading the public as to their origin. Oxford Educational filed a complaint against this decision.

R-102350

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 299/10 dismissed the complaint. The Court held that in case of a collision between a company name (the firm) and a trade mark that was registered with the “worse priority,” the priority shall be given to the right that was previously-formed. The mere registration of a trademark that is identical or similar to another company’s name (firm) does not provide even a breach of the rights to the company. However, the right to the company name would be infringed if the registration of a conflicting trade mark interferes with the exercise of this right. This distortion is misleading as to the identity of actors (acting under the company name and usign the sign) and therefore may jeopardize the company name. In case of a known, reputable, i.e. “strong” trade mark it means that the consumer awareness is associated with the recognized high-quality of products, derived from the manufacturer with high reputation. Thus, the registration of the questioned trade, and more – its application was made with a clear intention to benefit from the reputation of the OXFORD trade mark.

Trade mark law, case no. Sp. 133/08

November 10th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Wyborowa S.A. from Poznań filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark WYBORNA ŻYTNIA EXCELLENT RYE VODKA BLENDED R-172468 and word-figurative trade mark WYBORNA EXCELLENT VODKA R-172469, both applied for on 1 October 2002, for goods in Class 33 such as alcoholic beverages. The right of protection was granted to PPS Polmos S.A. Warszawa. Wyborowa S.A. argued that there is a confusing similarity to the WÓDKA WYBOROWA R-151215 trade mark and that the application of the both signs was made in bad faith.

R-151215

Wyborowa S.A. relied on an agreement regarding the division of trade marks that were registered for the stated owned Polmos company before socio-economic transformations that have occurred in Poland after 1989. Both WYBORNA R-64663 and WYBORNA WÓDKA R-64855 trade marks were transferred to PPS Polmos S.A. Warszawa.

R-64855

These trade marks received protection in the 90’s, and in 2003, Wyborowa S.A. requested the PPO to decide on the lapse of the right of protection. At the first stage, the PPO dismisses the case due to the lack of legitimate interests of Wyborowa S.A. The Company filed a complaint against this decision and the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 12 July 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 704/06 annulled the contested decisions and ruled them unenforceable. The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its final decisions of 28 April 2008 case number Sp. 285/06 and Sp. 543/06 decided on the lapse of the protection.

R-64663

PPS Polmos Warszawa applied again for the right of protection for very similar labels, hence Wyborowa S.A. filed a notice of opposition (dismissed by the PPO) and the request for invalidation,

R-172468

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its decision of 8 October 2010 case no. Sp. 133/08 invalidated both questioned trade marks. The PPO held that the application of those trade marks was made in bad faith, which was intended to circumvent the law. This was because these signs have been applied for during the proceedings of on the lapse of the above trade marks R-64663 and R-64855.

R-172469

The PPO ruled that Polmos Warszawa still wants to continue to maintain a monopoly and block other entrepreneurs to the use of the Wyborna sign. This is kind of a precedent decision, because the PPO probably for first time in its case-law considered that the re-application for similar signs is contrary to the principles of merchant’s honesty, as a matter of acting in bad faith. The decision is not final yet.