Archive for: Art. 4 APAT

Polish patent attorneys, case III CSK 337/07

October 29th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Supreme Court in a judgment of 16 October 2004, case file CK III 580/03, published in the Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, the Civil Chamber (in Polish: Orzecznictwo Sądu Najwyższego Izba Cywilna) of 2005/9/164/109, recognized the scope of representation for matters relating to unfair competition quite narrowly with regard to Polish patent attorneys’ profession.

Fortunately, there is a judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 13 March 2008, case file III CSK 337/07. The Court was very brief and set a clear rule in one important sentence.

Patent attorney may be a representative in each case relating to unfair competition.

This case was brought before the Supreme Court by Unilever Polska. The company sued Przedsiębiorstwo Produkcji Lodów “Koral” – Józef K. for unfair competition. The defendant ran an advertising lottery promoted under the slogan “million ice creams to win”, which in Unilever’s opinion breached the unfair competition law, because the advertising slogan could mislead customers as to the origin of goods in such a way that it might prompt them to unconsciously purchase the goods promoted by the opposite party. At about the same time Unilever was running a similar advertising campaign. The court of first instance rejected Unilever’s complaint. The Court of Appeal agreed with the court of lower instance and also rejected Unilever’s claim that the plaintiff cannot be represented by a patent attorney in unfair competition proceedings which do not directly concern IP rights.

The Supreme Court provided detailed analysis of Article 2 of the Law on Patent Attorneys. According to the Court, extensive interpretation should be applicable, which means that it would be difficult to rationally evaluate unfair competition cases, due to their diversity, so that one can tell where a patent attorney can and cannot act as an agent. According to the Court, conducting a case against unfair competition in connection with IP matters requires full knowledge about combating unfair competition proceedings. Therefore, it would be against the law to prevent patent attorneys from being involved in all unfair competition proceedings. The Supreme Court’s arguments were also based on the fact that the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property explicitly defines IP issues in the broadest possible sense. The definition of the protection of industrial property also covers combating unfair competition.

Polish patent attorneys, case II GSK 234/06

February 25th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

Kulikowska & Kulikowski is a firm of patent attorneys (in Polish: kancelaria rzecznikow patentowych), constituted as a registered partnership. In the Polish legal system, there is no distinction between trade mark attorneys and patent attorneys: the legal profession, which deals with industrial property law, performs both those functions. The profession is regulated by the Act of 11 April 2001 on Patent Attorneys – APAT – (in Polish: ustawa o rzecznikach patentowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 49, item 509, with subsequent amendments, and is recognized by the Polish Code of Commercial Companies – CCC – (in Polish: Kodeks spółek handlowych) of 15 September 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 94, item. 1037, with subsequent amendments, as a profession of public trust.

In 2003, a year after making an offer to buy trade mark rights, which was turned down, K&K applied to the Polish Patent Office for the registration of the FLESZ trade mark for their own interest. There was rampant speculation that the law firm might have represented a client, the identity of whom they wished to keep secret in order to obtain the trade mark at a lower price. K&K initiated the proceedings to revoke the FLESZ trade mark registered in the name of Inco-Veritas in 1993. K&K based its claim on the fact that Inco-Veritas had ceased use of the mark for 5 years. The PPO discontinued the proceeding.

In 2005, K&K appealed to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw. That court overturned the contested decision and ruled that the law firm could move for the revocation of the registered rights since the FLESZ trade mark had not been used. A court ruling to support K&K’s claim is needed for the PPO to let the firm register the trade mark for themselves.

Subsequently, Inco-Veritas filed the cassation complaint before the Polish Supreme Administrative Court (SAC). The Court ruled that K&K could not be a party in the lawsuit concerning the revocation of the rights in question because it lacked any proper interest to do so. The Court based its ruling on regulations included in the APA which provides that a law firm may provide services in the field of industrial property only to third parties. The SAC also ruled that such firms are not recognized as entrepreneurs as defined in Article 87(2) of the Act of 19 November 1999 on the Law of Economic Activity – ALEA – (in Polish: Prawo działalności gospodarczej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 101, item 1178. This law will be valid till 2011. Moreover, the SAC judged that K&K, being a law firm of patent attorneys and a registered partnership, was a company of public confidence. Accordingly, trade mark registration for its own use might undermine its credibility. The Voivodeship Administrative Court’s verdict was reversed and remitted for reconsideration. In 2006, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw confirmed SAC’s judgment and rejected K&K’s claim.

K&K filed a cassation suit to the Supreme Administrative Court claiming that article 87(2) of the ALEA and article 72 of the APA were inconsistent with the Polish Constitution with regard to the freedom to acquire property rights. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 March 2007 case file II GSK 234/06 dismissed K&K’s suit and ruled that a patent attorney is not an entrepreneur and that the freedom of economic activities may be limited by important public interest. In this case, the limitation is recognized as the idea of “the profession of public confidence”. Judge Anna Robotowska said that it was clear that regulations limiting patent attorneys’ commercial activities are constitutional. The Court did not find it applicable to send the case to the Court of Justice of the European Communities because the lawsuit had begun in 2003, which is before Poland joined the European Union. The judgment confirmed that a Polish patent attorney’s prime role is to professionally represent clients seeking trade mark registration. Barring patent attorneys from registering trade marks in their own interest may also prevent them from unethical business practices.

Polish patent attorneys, case CK III 580/03

February 24th, 2005, Tomasz Rychlicki

On the basis of Article 4, section 1, of the Polish Act of 11 April 2001 on Patent Attorneys – APAT – (in Polish: ustawa o rzecznikach patentowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 49, item 509, with subsequent amendments, the profession of a patent attorney is created to provide assistance in matters of industrial property: to private individuals, legal persons and entities without legal personality.

Article 2. Whenever in this Act is referred to the Industrial Property – shall mean:
1) acquisition, preservation, carrying out and enforcing of rights related to industrial property, and in particular to inventions, utility models, industrial designs and topographies of integrated circuits, as well as trademarks, trade names and geographical indications,
2) combating unfair competition in respect of items referred to in paragraph 1.

The scope of representation for matters relating to unfair competition has been recognized in the Act quite narrowly. It was confirmed by the Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 16 October 2004 case file CK III 580/03, which was published in the Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, the Civil Chamber (in Polish: Orzecznictwo Sądu Najwyższego Izba Cywilna) of 2005/9/164/109. The Court simply held that a patent attorney may be a representative in judicial proceedings, which are the subject of a claim arising from unfair competition in respect of items referred to in Article 2, section 1 of the APAT.