The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 12 May 2014 case file I OPS 10/13 held that the current legal status of administrative court proceedings, as defined in Article 46 § 1 pt. 4 of the Polish Act on the Law on proceedings before administrative courts – PBAC – (in Polish: Prawo o postępowaniu przed sądami administracyjnymi) of 30 August 2002, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 153, item 1270, with subsequent amendments, does not allow for filing to a court a letter that is only bearing an electronic signature of a party. Such letters must bear handwritten signature. This includes a situation of filing documents through public administration body, by means of electronic communication.
Archive for: Polish Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark PHYTOLYZIN R-195394. The request was filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath, the owner of the earlier International trade mark registration LyCin IR-813677. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 November 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 790/12 dismissed a complaint filed against this decision, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 July 2014 case file II GSK 492/13 dismissed a cassation complaint filed by Dr. med. Matthias Rath.
On November 2014, Mr Rath filed before the Supreme Administrative Court a request for the annulment of previous proceedings, and a motion to reopen the proceedings and to issue an award of costs in accordance with prescribed procedure and also submitted as a supplement to the cassation complaint the decision of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market of March 2013 on invalidity of the trade mark PHYTOLIZIN along with its certified translation into Polish. Mr Rath argued that the proceeding should be deemed by the Court as invalid because as the representative of the trademark owner appeared an attorney who submitted at the hearing a substitution of PoA as signed of July 2014. However, the power of attorney was invalid, because it was issued on behalf of another company, which was not a party to the proceedings.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 January 2015 case file II GSK 2803/14 rejected the request and held that such motion is allowed if a party does not have the capacity and standing to bring proceedings or was not properly represented or if as a result of violations of the law was deprived of possible actions. However, the reopening cannot be requested if, before the judgment becomes final the inability to act ceased, the lack of proper representation was raised by way of objection, or a party has confirmed all procedural actions. These pleas and arguments for reopening, however, did not apply to Mr Rath. The argument for reopening of the proceedings was based on lack of adequate representation refered to the representation of the trade mark owner, not Mr Rath, and such a request may only be raised by a party that was not properly represented.
On September 2007, Mr Jarosław Spychała applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for the word trade mark LEGO-LOGOS Z-330692 for services in Classes 35, 36 and 41. The PPO informed the applicant that his trade mark is similar to series of signs registered and owned by LEGO Juris A/S. Mr Spychała argued that the applied sign is the neologism derived from the ancient Greek language, and the term LEGO simply means “to read, think or speak”, and the term LOGOS means “learning” in a broad sense. In academic and education circles the term LEGO-LOGOS is associated with a particular form of education in philosophy and in building moral attitudes. The mark is directed at people who wish to explore philosophy and knowledge.
The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection because the applied trade mark was similar to the word trade mark LEGO R-72961 that was registered with an earlier priority for almost similar services. Mr Spychała filed a complaint against this decision and argued that the fact that compared signs share the same identical word element is not sufficient to refuse the protection for the later trade mark. The most important was the subject of the applied trade mark – a philosophical concept developed by the applicant and its popularization.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1201/11 dismissed the complaint. The Court noted that the PPO properly made the comparison of goods and services and did not erred in comparison of both signs. The VAC agreed with the PPO that the word element LEGO can also mean to fold or to assemble, and thus relate to specific products – blocks that are marked by registered trademarks of LEGO Juris A/S. The Court pointed out that the applicant while describing the project of philosophical education under the name LEGO-LOGOS has also showed that he drew the expression of LEGO from Danish language. Regardless of what language (Ancient Greek or Danish) the dominant element LEGO was taken, it is a word that does not exist in the Polish language. Its importance in ancient Greek or Danish is not understandable for the average Polish recipient of goods or services. It may be related to the characteristics of goods – just blocks marked with this sign. Mr Spychała filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 March 2014 case file II GSK 146/13 dismissed it.
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition filed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company against the decision on the grant of the right of protection for the word trade mark TEFAPAK R-199130 that was applied for the Polish company SINOGRAF S.A.
E.I. du Pont argued that the sign TEFAPAK is similar to its trade mark TEFLON R-49573 that was registered in Poland in 1968, and to its CTM TEFLON that was registered in 1996. According to the US company, the compared goods are identical or similar, and the signs share the same prefix TEF, which could lead to consumers’ confusion.
SINOGRAF S.A. requested the PPO to dismiss the opposition, and argued that the goods are directed to competent consumers of the proper level of technical knowledge, who have knowledge and experience in the field of materials, and thus much greater possibility of distinguishing different trade marks than the average recipient.
The PPO dismissed the opposition and found that the trade marks at issue are not similar, since they have significantly different overall impression both in the the visual and aural aspects. The PPO noted that there is no likelihood of confusion and it could not include the likelihood of association, because the goods are targeted to specialized recipients. E.I. du Pont filed a compliant against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 July 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 301/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the Polish Patent Office correctly established all circumstances of the case. The VAC agreed that the goods are identical or similar, however, the Court did not agree with the argument that the compared signs are similar to the extent that could lead to likelihood of confusion. In the opinion of the Court, the trade mark are not similar, so arguments about the use of someone else’s reputation and the reputation of the trade mark can not be justified. Dissimilar signs can not induce associations of customers, so there can be no conscious imitation and benefit from someone else’s reputation. E.I. du Pont filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Adminitrative Court in its judgment of 20 March 2014 case file II GSK 2005/12 dismissed it.
On August 2011, the Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for a trade mark owned by a Polish entity. On 12 September 2012, the Austrian company and the Polish business filed a complaint against the decision of the PPO. The Austrian entrepreneur claimed that it is a legal successor in the case of the invalidated trade mark. As evidence, the company provided an agreement of transfer of trade mark rights.
In a letter of 6 November 2012, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw called on the applicant, represented by the patent attorney, to submit a document setting out the authority to represent the applicant, i.e. the original or certified copy of an extract from the official register of companies, which would prove that a person who signed the PoA was a persons properly authorized to represent the applicant on the day of granting the power of attorney that has been attached to the complaint, together with a sworn translation into Polish, within thirty days under pain of dismissal of the action. The letter was delivered to the patent attorney on 12 November 2012. On 12 December 2012, the Court received a request for an extension of the deadline for filing the requested documents. The applicant argued that the person responsible in the applicant’s company for providing such documents was on leave in November 2012, and later, the document was sent by mail, however, it has not been delivered on time.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its order of 31 January 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 rejected the complaint due to the failure to comply with the Court’s request of 6 November 2012. The Court noted that the deadline to correct formal deficiencies of a complaint is a statutory deadline. Statutory deadlines that are set for parties and participants in the proceedings cannot be extended or shortened. In addition, the VAC cited the order of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2006 case file I FSK 29/06, and noted that the applicant, while deciding to start its business in Poland, should properly protect its interests, by preparing documents that would authenticate PoAs granted to persons who represent the company, among others, in administrative proceedings. The Court also noted that 80 days have passed from the date of delivery of the letter to the attorney of the Austrian company, but the requested documents were not received by the Court.
In the letter of 20 March 2013, both applicants filed a request to restore the deadline in order to supplement formal deficiencies of the complaint. The request was based on the fact that the person authorized to issue and deliver of the document was long absent, and finally in December 2012, a copy of this document in German, was sent by mail. The whole delay was caused by the Christmas holidays, abroad stay, and his illness in January 2013. The application had attached a copy of the scanned document in German that was received via e-mail.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order of 25 July 2013 case file VI SA/Wa 1810/12 refused to restore the deadline and ruled that the action in the administrative proceedings that was taken by the party after the expired deadline is deemed as ineffective, while, in the case where a party has failed to act without its fault, the court decides on the request to restore the deadline. The request should be submitted to the court in which the action was to be made within seven days from the time of cessation of the cause of failure to comply with the deadline. The requesting party must substantiate circumstances indicating a lack of its fault in complying with the established deadline. The criterion of lack of fault, which is a prerequisite for the validity of the request to restore the deadline is based on the party’s fulfillment of an obligation to act in special care when making a procedural step. Both legal comentators and the case law of the Supreme Administrative Court states, that in assessing the occurrence of this evidence, the court should adopt an “objective measure of care” which may be required of each party who duly cares about their interests. The lack of fault can only be proved when the party could not remove the obstacle even with the greatest effort. The Court decided that the circumstances indicated by the applicant did not exclude the possibility to meet the deadline in order to fulfill formal deficiencies of the complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 19 February 2014 case file II GSK 248/14 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by both companies.
The Polish company Promedica Care Sp. z o.o requested the Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO) to issue a decision that would order Agora S.A., the owner of gazeta.pl website, to disclose IP addresses of users who posted negative comments regarding Promedica24.pl website. The GIODO decided that Agora S.A. should disclose requested information, although, it also noticed that the provisions of Article 29 of the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data – PPD – (in Polish: Ustawa o ochronie danych osobowych), unified text published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 6 July 2002, No. 101, item 926, with subsequent amendments, were repealed as of 7 March 2011.
1. The processing of data is permitted only if:
1) the data subject has given his/her consent, unless the processing consists in erasure of personal data,
2) processing is necessary for the purpose of exercise of rights and duties resulting from a legal provision,
3) processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract,
4) processing is necessary for the performance of tasks provided for by law and carried out in the public interest,
5) processing is necessary for the purpose of the legitimate interests pursued by the controllers or data recipients, provided that the processing does not violate the rights and freedoms of the data subject.
However, these regulations should be still applied to proceedings initiated before the entry into force of the Act that repealed the above mentioned provisions, and there was no obstacle to justify the refusal to provide the requested data according to the provisions of Article 30 of the PPD.
The controller shall refuse the access to the personal data of the filing system to subjects and persons other than those referred to in Article 29 paragraph 1, if it would:
1) result in the disclosure of the information constituting a state secrecy,
2) pose a threat to national defence or security of the state, human life and health, or security and public order,
3) pose a threat to fundamental economic or financial interests of the state,
4) result in a substantial breach of personal interests of the data subjects or other persons.
The General Inspector did not agree with Agora S.A. that providing the requested data would infringe personal interests of the users of gazeta.pl website and its fora. The violation was only hypothetical, and was not supported by proper evidence. Agora S.A. argued that there are no legal instruments that would allow for monitoring the use of disclosed data, and this may lead to their use not only inconsistent with the purpose for which they were disclosed, but even to such use that is contrary to law. The GIODO noted that the absence of such instruments is not synonymous with the use of disclosed data contrary to the purpose for which it was made available. At the moment such data was disclosed, the Company will become the controller (administrator) as defined in the Article 7(4) of the PPD.
Whenever in this Act a reference is made to any of the following, it shall mean:
4) controller – shall mean a body, an organisational unit, an establishment or a person referred to in Article 3, who decides on the purposes and means of the processing of personal data.
According to the GIODO, the processing of these data will be subject to the regulations provided in the provisions of the PPD, in particular the obligation not to undergo further processing of the data collected that would not be in accordance with the objectives of the disclosure (so-called principle of expediency/purposefulness), and the control of data processing in compliance with the provisions on personal data protection will be still the competence of the Inspector General. Agora S.A. argued that the provisions of Article 18 of the Polish Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services by Electronic Means – PSEM – (in Polish: ustwa o świadczeniu usług droga elektroniczną), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 144, item. 1204 with subsequent amendments, should be applied in its case, not the provisions of the PPD.
1. The service provider may process the following personal data of the service recipient necessary for entering in, designing contents, amending or terminating legal relationship between them:
1) service recipient’s surname and names ,
2) his/her PESEL number (Personal Identification Number),
3) his/her permanent residence address,
4) his/her address for correspondence, if it is different than the address referred to in point 3,
5) data used for verifying the service recipient’s electronic signature ,
6) service recipient’s electronic addresses .
2. In order to effect contracts or other legal activity having been concluded with a service recipient, a service provider may process other data necessary due to nature (characteristics) of the service provided or way of its billing.
3. The service provider distinguishes and marks those data from among the data referred to in paragraph 2, as such being necessary for providing services by electronic means in accordance with art. 22 paragraph 1.
4. The service provider may process, upon consent of s service recipient and for the purposes set forth in art. 19 paragraph 2 point 2, other data concerning the service recipient, which are not necessary for providing service by electronic means.
5. The service provider may process the following data describing the way of using the service provided by electronic means by a service recipient (traffic data):
1) denotations identifying the service recipient assigned on the basis of the data referred to in paragraph 1,
2) denotations identifying the telecommunication network terminal or a teleinformation system, which have been used by a service recipient,
3) information about commencement, termination and a range of every usage of the service provided by electronic means,
4) information about using of the service provided by electronic means by a service recipient.
6. The service provider provides the information on data referred to in paragraphs 1 – 5 to the state authorities for the needs of legal proceedings carried on by them.
The provider is therefore obliged to provide information on all categories of data listed in Article 18(1-5) of the PSEM, to the State authorities for the purpose of the proceedings conducted by them. The Inspector General noted that the disclosed information should also be understood as such data. The GIODO said that the provision of Article 18(6) of the PSEM are constructed in general terms and do not indicate either the types of bodies that may request such information, or the types of proceedings: criminal, civil, administrative or enforcement. The Inspector General noted that the provision of Article 18(6) of the PSEM only requires the provider to disclose information to State bodies, and it should not be interpreted broadly as the legal norm that is prohibiting the disclosure of such information to other entities. The GIODO decided that if the legislature had the intention to limit the disclosure of the information referred to in Article 18(1-5) of the PSEM, only for the bodies referred to in Article18(6) of the Act, it would explicitly formulate this provision, for example, by using the phrase “only”, which is a legislative method of defining the closed circle of entities, as it was provided in other regulations, for instance in the Article 66g and Article 66j § 4 of the Polish Act of 17 June 1966 on Administrative Enforcement Proceedings, or in the Article 72(1) of the Polish Act 5 August 2010 on Protection of Classified Information and in Article 105(1) of the Polish Act of 29 August 1997 Banking Law. The Inspector General noted that the legislature did not use the phrase “only” in the provisions of Article 218 of the Criminal Proceedings Code – CRPC – (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Karnego) of 6 June 1997, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 89, item 555, with subsequent amendments, in relation to an obligation to disclose, at the request contained in the order, to the court or the prosecutor any mail and packages and the data referred to in Article 180c and 180d of the Polish Act of 16 July 2000 on Telecommunications Law – TLA – (in Polish: Prawo telekomunikacyjne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 171, item 1800 with subsequent amendments.
1. The obligation referred to in Article 180a (1) shall cover the data necessary to:
1) trace the network termination point, telecommunications terminal equipment, an end user:
a) originating the call,
a) the date and time of a call and its duration,
b) the type of a call,
c) location of telecommunications terminal equipment.
2. The minister competent for communications in agreement with the minister competent for internal affairs, having regard to the type of telecommunications activities performed by operators of a public telecommunications network or providers of publicly available telecommunications services, data specified in paragraph 1, costs of data collection and retention as well as the need to avoid multiple retention and storage of the same data, shall specify, by means of an ordinance:
1) a detailed list of data referred to in paragraph 1;
2) types of public telecommunications network operators or providers of publicly available telecommunications services obliged to retain and store the data.
Telecommunications undertakings shall be obliged to provide conditions for access and retention as well as to make available at their own cost the data referred to in Article 159 (1) (1) and (3) to (5), in Article 161 and in Article 179 (9) related to the provided telecommunications service and processed by them to authorized entities, to the court and to the prosecutor, under the terms and observing the procedures specified in separate provisions.
The Inspector General stressed that the legislature has indicated that only the court or the prosecutor is allowed to open the correspondence, mail and data, or order for their opening.
§ 1. Offices, institutions and entities operating in post and telecommunications fields, customs houses, and transportation institutions and companies, shall be obligated to surrender to the court or state prosecutor upon demand included in their order, any correspondence or transmissions significant to the pending proceedings. Only the court and a state prosecutor shall be entitled to inspect them or to order their inspection.
The Inspector General also stressed that the above-cited provisions of the CRPC should not be applied in this case, because Promedica Care Sp. z o.o is not the authority conducting the proceedings in a criminal case, and the disclosed personal data will be used by it to initiate civil, not criminal proceedings. The GIODO indicated that Promedica may follow the procedure provided for in Article 29 of the PPD, and civil proceedings under the Civil Proceedings Code – CPC (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Cywilnego) of 17 November 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 43, item 296, with subsequent amendments, regardless of actions taken under the criminal proceedings. Agora S.A. filed a complaint.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 8 March 2012 II SA/Wa 2821/11 repealed the contested decision, and held that according to the provisions of Article 18(6) of the PSEM, the only one empowered to obtain data collected by the service provider within the meaning of that Act, are the State bodies. The PSEM does not contain any other provision, which serve as the basis for disclosure of data to the entities other than state authorities. The court stated that if the legislature’s intention was to give permission to obtain operational data to entities other than state authorities, it would have included a clear regulation providing for such permission in the PSEM. Data protection is a general rule. The service provider may process personal and operational data only in the extent and on terms defined in the PSEM. Only in the absence of regulations provided in the PSEM such processing may be based on an appropriate application of the PPD. The disclosure of data to third parties – such as Promedica Care – is breaking of that protection and as an exception to the rule cannot be interpreted broadly. GIODO filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 August 2013 case file I OSK 1666/12 dismissed it. The SAC held that any company or individual has the right to request ISPs to disclose e-mail addresses and IP addresses that are associated with the offensive entries.
The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark Quatro Pak quality packaging Z-370075 applied for the goods in Class 16 such as paper, printed matter, instructional and teaching material (except apparatus) by the Polish company Sokpol sp. z o.o. The PPO decided that the applied sign is similar to the CTM QUATRO no. 005799325 and International registration QUATRO IR-0923559, both registered for the same goods in Class 16. Sokpol filed a complaint against such decision. The Company argued that the main element of its word-figurative sign are two words – QUATRO PAK, and not the word QUATRO itself.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 October 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 959/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the assessment of the dominant meaning to the word elements in the word-figurative trade mark word is grounded in the belief that words are the most easily seen and remembered elements and thus are the most effective channels of communication with the customer. This assumption cannot be questioned only in relation to the words that carry a clear and understandable information to the average consumer, so to the words quite well-known and understood in the Polish language. There should be no doubt that the word QUATRO cannot be attributed to any clear and understandable information in Polish. Thus, it will be perceived by the average consumer as an abstract expression in relation to the goods bearing trade marks at issue.
On August 2008, the Polish law firm BSO PRAWO & PODATKI – Bramorski Szermach Okorowska Kancelaria Prawna Spółka komandytowa from Wrocław applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark BSO RECHT & STEUERN Z-344756, for legal services in Class 45. The PPO refused because of the similarity with the CTM BSO no. 001463017 registered with the earlier priority for services in class 41 such as education and providing of training relating to intellectual property, patent, trademark, design and legal matters and relating to research and development for others, and in Class 42 for services such as Intellectual property consultancy, patent, design and trademark agency, including legal consultancy, engineering services, research and development for third parties and computer programming and services in relation to computer hardware, all relating to intellectual property, patent, trademark, design and legal matters and relating to research and development for others. This CTM is owned by the Danish IP law firm BUDDE SCHOU A/S. The PPO stated that the phrase “Recht & Stenern” (English: tax and law) is devoid of any distinctive character, as an expression, which determines only the scope of activities. This expression is not noticeable in the sign, because it is written in very small letters at the bottom, so there is no significant impact on public perception. Undoubtedly for the PPO, the acronym BSO was predominant, and the fact that the applied trade mark consists of three words and the earlier sign only one – BSO, was not important in this situation for the assessment of similarity. The PPO concluded that the same assesment applies to the figurative element. BSO PRAWO & PODATKI filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1269/11 dismissed it. The Court ruled that a stylized symbol of section sign (paragraph) is generally accepted as an indication of the persons and entities providing legal services. Such a figurative element, no matter in what color or in any styling, recognizable as a double S symbol, is perceived to be connected with the law. It was difficult to accept that such an element, in a graphic that indicates the applicant’s company, would distinguish it from other law firms or companies providing legal services. The difference in the territorial operation of both companies was irrelevant for the PPO and the Court, because the CTM covers the entire territory of the European Union, and both companies are located there, in different Member States. This judgment is final.
The Polish company NTT System S.A. applied for the right of protection for word trade mark NTTonLine Z-330715 for services in Class 35. The PPO noted that the entry in the list of services such as “management of the licensing of goods and services to third parties”, was placed in the trade mark application in Class 35. The PPO ruled that it is a very general term, referring to all goods and services. Meanwhile, according to International Classification of Goods and Services “licensing of industrial property” and “licensing of computer programs” should be classified in class 45. Therefore, PPO asked for clarification of the original term – so as to eliminate any doubt regarding the scope of protection of the trade mark NTTonLine, because the general reference to all goods and services could in fact raise the risk of inclusion of general terms that belong to the different classes. NTT System did not submit any additional documents or corrections and the PPO discontinued the examination proceedings. NTT filed a complaint against this decision, and later withdraw it.
The Voivodeship Administratice Court in its order of 8 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 2122/10 was required to examine whether such withdrawal is not intended to evade the law or if it would leave in force a void decision. The Court ruled that that withdrawal was acceptable in this case. NTT filed a cassation complaint, and the Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 9 August 2011 case file II GSK 1127/11 annulled the order of the VAC and returned the case for further reconsideration.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 April 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1780/11 found that this time NTT System did not request the withdrawal of the complaint, and demanded a hearing. The Company argued that it is not true that the services listed in Class 35 are general in nature, and they need to be clarified, because for all general terms in the Nice Classification are marked with an asterisk, and only such terms should be clarified. Moreover, the contested final decision of the Polish Patent Office violated the law as it was issued by an unauthorized person – an expert not having the appropriate authority to consider this particular case. Such authorization should be granted by the President of the PPO. The Court held that the most important is the recommendation that the particular text appearing in the alphabetical list should be used as the indication of goods or services, not a general term. And the mere fact that a specific good or service are listed in alphabetical order does not affect the individual decision of national industrial property offices on the possibility of registration of the mark for such goods or services. The wording of the list of goods and services must be clear not only for the applicant, but also for third parties who either may submit an opposition to the grant of the right of protection, or simply by applying or using the sign, they wish to avoid a collision with a similar trade mark with an earlier priority. The court considered the request of the PPO that was addressed to the applicant in order to clarify the list of services, as justified. The Court ruled that the President of the Polish Patent Office is empowered to authorize certain persons not only to make decisions on her behalf in certain matters, but also to select of experts or assessors to act in certain cases. The expert examining the case was properly authorized by the President of the PPO. Taking into account all the arguments, the Court dismissed the complaint.
The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups (SLLGO) requested the Mayor of Opole Lubelskie town to disclose information regarding the fund from the years 2009-2011. The request was sent via e-mail. The Mayor ordered the SLLGO to supplement formal defects of the request and claimed that this form of an electronic document must be signed by the certified electronic signature as referred to in the Polish Act of 17 February 2005 on the Informatization of Entities Performing Public Tasks – IEPPT – (in Polish: ustawa o informatyzacji działalności podmiotów realizujących zadania publiczne), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 64, item 565 as amended, and the Act of 18 September 2001 on Electronic Signature – ESA – (in Polish: ustawa o podpisie elektronicznym), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw), No 130, item 1450, with subsequent amendments. SLLGO refused to comply and argued that the provisions of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments, allows for requesting the disclosure, even verbally, without any formality. The Mayor decided to leave the request without examination. The decision was based on the provisions of Article 64 § 2 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, published in 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.
§ 1. The application will not be examined if the applicant’s address is not included in the application and it cannot be identified from the data available.
§ 2. If the application does not fulfil the requirements of law, the applicant shall be summoned to correct the defects within 7 days, with a notice advising that failure to comply will result in the application not being examined.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Lublin in its judgment of 20 March 2012 case file II SAB/Lu 10/12 ruled that the Mayor remained inactive and unjustifiably applied the provisions of the APC, therefore, the Court obliged the Mayor to examine the request. The authority that is obliged to disclose public information is not entitled to demand that a request submitted in electronic form has to be signed by any electronic signature. The Court reminded that the intention of the legislature was to unformalize the proceedings for the disclosure of public information, in order to ensure and fulfill the constitutional principle of openness of public life. The API indicates that a request for such information may take any form, and even the person requesting has not to be fully identified.
POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK S.A. requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the figurative 3D trade mark WISENT VODKA PŁ 1764 DISTILLED & BOTTLED IN POLMOS LANCUT POLAND R-191793 owned by Fabryka Wódek POLMOS ŁAŃCUT S.A. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK is the owner of the figurative trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081 and the 3D trade mark R-85811 depicting a bottle with a blade of grass inside, that were registered with the earlier priority. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK argued that there exists the risk of misleading the public because of the similarity of trade marks. The similarity is based on the distinctive element – a blade of grass, that is the distinguishing element of Żubrówka bottle, which leads to the fact that consumers associate the brand with these trade marks. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK provided evidence that Żubrówka is one of the most popular vodka brands on the Polish market, as well as studies on the presence of Żubrówka brand in the market, materials on advertising campaigns, a research on consumer choices in buying of vodkas. The Company also argued that “a blade in a bottle” was commonly associated with Polmos alcohol trade marks in 1999, when the trade mark portfolio was divided between different companies. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed the reputation of the trade marks R-46050, R-62081, R-80991, R-85811 and R-125 911, the same as the reputation of Żubrówka vodka trade marks that were acquired by the company.
POLMOS ŁANCUT argued that the motifs of the wisent and a grass blade will not change the overall assessment of the compared trade marks, and as such, are associated with this type of vodka. In particular, the grass – Hierochloe odorata, which is necessary for the production of this kind of flavoured vodka. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT noted that the appropriation of these elements in favor of one company would not be justified, because it would limit the freedom of the activities of other competing entrepreneurs. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT provided examples of rights of protection for trade marks containing elements such as leaves and fruit of the rowan, drawings of a coconut or cherry, which are the signs used to mark of products in Class 33.
The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request. The PPO agreed that mentioned trade marks are reputed, but they were not similar. The PPO also noted that in the case of trade marks for alcoholic beverages, the consumer’s attention is directed primarily at the label and its contents, as part of communicating the essential information about the brand, type and manufacturer of purchased product, and only then – on the other elements, such as the shape of the bottle or its contents. The PPO decided that POLMOS ŁAŃCUT did not derive any benefits from the reputation the earlier marks. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT carefully created its trade mark in order to fundamentally distinguish it from earlier signs owned by POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. The only common associations that the compared signs raise come down to the fact that they serve to mark the same kind of vodka. CEDC INTERNATIONAL Sp. z o.o., the successor of POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 3 April 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 16/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the decision of the PPO did not violate the law in force or the methodology for comparison of trade marks. This judgment is not final yet.
On 22 November 2010, Bogusław Kler, a Polish patent and trade mark attorney, requested the President of the Polish Patent Office to disclose public information concerning the word trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617, in order to know, whether during the examination, the trade mark POLO R-69429, or other marks containing this word were taken into account, and in particular, if the expert who was proceeding and examining the trade mark application, noted and listed any signs with the word “polo” in the examination card of the trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617. In addition, Mr Kler requested for information on whether in a possible conflict between “Prince Polo” and the earlier “POLO” signs, the examiner considered any settlement actions of the owners of such trade marks, indicating that he is not requesting the full texts of documents, but seeking to confirm whether such documents if any, were submitted to the trade mark file and they were used in the assessment for the trade mark PRINCE POLO.
The President of the PPO expressed the opinion that the examination card of the trade mark PRINCE POLO R-148617 is not deemed as public information, because it is not directed the parties of the proceedings, and therefore it cannot be disclosed. With regard to information on materials concerning possible settlement between the trademark owners, the President explained that such information can be obtained by directly asking the entitled entities. At the same time, the President pointed out that decisions on the granting of exclusive rights belong to independent experts, and the requested filed by Mr Kler can be read as an unfounded and unjustifiable attempt to control of examinations conducted by experts and the procedures for the granting of exclusive rights. The President argued that such control process of the legality of decisions undertaken by the Polish Patent Office falls within the competence of administrative courts. The method of preparing and filing of the examination card of a trade mark is not regulated in any legislation being in force. Information to be included in it depends on the expert. The examination card is somehow a reflection of thinking of a person who was handling a given case.
Bogusław Kler filed a complaint for failure to act (administrative inaction). Mr Kler argued that the President of the PPO did not consider his request or did not issue a refusal decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 May 2011 case file II SAB/Wa 88/11 dismissed the complaint. The VAC held that information requested by Mr Kler is not public, in particular, these are not public data. The Court held that the examination card is not an official document since it does not contain a declaration of will/intent or knowledge of a public official. Based on the card, it is not possible to unambiguously determine conditions, that were followed by the authority granting the right of protection for a trade mark. The card is a working internal document of the PPO, which provides information of operational activities aimed at a comprehensive assessment and examination of the validity and legitimacy for granting the protection of the sign applied for. Mr Kler filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 1 December 2011 case file I OSK 1550/11 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC held that according the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, a citizen should have the right to obtain information on the activities of organs of public authority as well as persons discharging public functions. Such right should also include receipt of information on the activities of self-governing economic or professional organs and other persons or organizational units relating to the field in which they perform the duties of public authorities and manage communal assets or property of the State Treasury. Limitations upon the right of information may be imposed by the Act solely to protect freedoms and rights of other persons and economic subjects, public order, security or important economic interests of the State. The principle of the “right to information” provided in the Constitution sets basic rules of interpretation of this right. It is a constitutional right, therefore, the law defining the procedures for access to information should be interpreted broadly, and any exceptions to this right should be construed and interpreted narrowly. This implies the use in relation to these acts of interpretation, which favor expanding rather than narrowing the obligation to disclose information. The enumeration, what is deemed as public information, is provided in the Polish Act on Access to Public Information, however this enumeration includes exemplary situations, and it does not cover all cases in which information is disclosed. The Court noted that public information is each information or data that was created or referred to the widely defined public authorities, or was created or referred to other entities performing public functions in the execution of tasks of public authority. The Supreme Administrative Court shared the view that all files of entire administrative proceedings conducted by a public authority, constitutes public information – including both documents created and held by the authority in connection with a particular case. Therefore, the Court held that, in principle, all that is in the file of the proceedings, regardless of whether it will be a public document or private, should be disclosed. It does not matter whether the document in the file is an “internal” or “working”. Even giving up the assumption that the whole proceedings constitute public information, it cannot be excluded that given documents from these files have such nature. In each case, every request for disclosure of public information requires a detailed analysis. Only as a result of such analysis, the authority should decide whether the requested information is public, followed by what standards govern the procedure of its disclosure.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 31 January 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 1855/11 dismissed the complaint against the refusal decision of the Polish Patent Office to grant the right of protection for the word trade mark GOLD CLA Z-330491. The Court held that the principle of citizens’ trust in state authorities and bodies, imposes on public authorities the obligation for lawful and fair conduct of the proceedings, which is expressed in a careful examination of the circumstances of the case, taking position to requests filed by parties and taking into account both the public interest and the legitimate interests of citizens in the issued decisions. However, this obligation cannot be based on the examination of the facts that were the basis for decisions taken in other specific, individual cases. All the circumstances which contributed to the registration of the trade mark in other proceedings for other entities are not circumstances that the Polish Patent Office should, and even could examine in a particular case.
A Polish citizen filed a complaint to the Voivodeship Administrative Court via e-mail, and signed it with the qualified electronic signature. The Court called him to sign the complaint manually, within 7 days under pain of rejection of the complaint. The applicant argued that he already signed it.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Łódź in its order of 13 March 2012 case file II SAB/Łd 35/12 rejected the complaint. The Court held that the complaint must meet two kinds of requirements. First of all, the complaint must meet all the requirements provided for the letter in court proceedings, and also it has to include an indication of the contested decision, order, or any other act or activity, the indication of an authority or body whose action or inaction is a subjetct of the complaint, the explanation of violation of law or legal interest. As each letter, the complaint should therefore be signed by the party or its legal representative or attorney, according to the provisions of Article 46 § 1 point 4 of the Polish Act of 30 August 2002 on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts – PBAC – (in Polish: Prawo o postępowaniu przed sądami administracyjnymi), published in Journal Of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 153, item 1270 with subsequent amendments. According to the Court, for the effectiveness of the electronically signed letter it has to be signed manually by the party. Therefore, the signature of the applicant’s letter must be submitted in person, i.e, it has to be a manual sign of a specific person to allow for its identification. An exception to the above mentioned rule, is a provision stating that a letter which can not be signed by a party in person, should be signed by a person authorized by the party. Such a person has to explain the reasons why the party itself did not signed the letter. Failure to sign the complaint within the prescribed period of time means that the applicant did not remove its defects in form, which results in rejection of the complaint by the Court. The VAC noted that its view is confirmed by well-established case law of the administrative courts. See the order of the Supreme Administrative Court of 16 November 2011 case file I OZ 831/11, the order of the SAC of 8 September 2011 case file I OZ 657/11, the order of the SAC of 27 May 2011 case file I OZ 368/11.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 November 2011 case file II GSK 1206/10 held that the provisions of Article 45(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland provide that everyone should have the right to a fair and public hearing of his or her case, without undue delay, before a competent, impartial and independent court. These provisions include the principle that every court should decide a case without undue delay. This rule is also reflected, among others in the provisions of Article 7 the Polish Act of 30 August 2002 on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts – PBAC – (in Polish: Prawo o postępowaniu przed sądami administracyjnymi), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 153, item 1270 with subsequent amendments, that the administrative court should undertake activities aimed at the rapid settlement of the matter of each case and seek to settle the case at the first hearing. In light of these provisions it should be clearly stated, however, that the principle of the speed of court proceedings is not a rule that could be given precedence over the right of the party to defend its rights and personal participation in the hearing, if the legislature included the possibility to postpone the hearing in specific situations. In this case, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw improperly assessed the evidence that gave the reason to postpone of the hearing, which resulted in a breach of the right of parties to participate in the hearing and personal defense of their rights in legal proceedings. In consequence, the SAC ruled that there was a reason to decide on the nullity of proceedings.
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.
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.
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“.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Gdańsk in its order of 23 March 2011 case file I SA/Gd 916/10 rejected a complaint against a decision on leaving the applicant’s request for the relief for the payment of court fees from the complaints, without examination. The complaint was sent by post the day after the deadline, but the day before, the same letter has been sent by e-mail at 10:50 pm to the court. The VAC found the complaint to be void and rejected it. The applicant filed a complaint against such order.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 21 December 2011 case file II FZ 447/11 agreed with the applicant, and repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC issued very precedential opinion. The Court held that despite the legal loopholes it is possible to bring the pleadings via e-mail correspondence with the courts. The court also held that the date of the filing is a real moment of delivery of the e-mail message, which will be communicated to the recipient in the appropriate e-mail program. The Court noted that information about the confirmation of data transmission, which includes the date of delivery, is provided in the header of each e-mail message and it decides on timely filing of the pleadings. The Court stressed that the party to the proceedings before the administrative courts cannot bear the negative consequences of failure to implement the Polish Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts of the relevant provisions concerning the submission of documents by electronic means. After that judgment a party can effectively bring to the administrative court every pleading by electronic means, including the complaint or a cassation complaint, despite the lack of a formal legal basis. The only problem is that the document lacks of a formal signature. But there is no obstacle to supplement it after the call issued by the court. If the applicant will send a complaint via e-mail at the last moment, it will be deemed as the effective delivery and filing. It only has to be signed in person after the call from the court in a specified deadline.
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.
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.
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“.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 1 September 2011 case file II GSK 833/10 decided the cassation appeal that was filed by the National Council of Patent Attorneys in the case of the candidate for the patent attorney traineeship. The candiate did not agree with grades that she received during the entry exam. The SAC held that the cassation complaint was unjustified because of the lack of clarity in the rules of operation of the examination committee could cause significant differences in the assessments and grades that were issued by individual members of the committee. Grades that were issued for the same answer for the same question were so significantly different (4 and 10, 3 and 10) that it could indicate only that not all members of the committee acted in accordance with objective, reliable rules. The Supreme Administrative Court held that the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 February 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1713/09 correctly annulled the resolution of the National Council of Patent Attorneys, because the Council did not use clear criteria for assessing candidates for the patent attorney traineeship, thus giving rise to the recognition by the VAC that such resolution violated the requirements for reasons and justification of the administrative decision. The SAC held that the sufficient guarantee of proper operation of the committee would be, apart from the personal reliability of its members, formulation and disclosure of clear criteria for evaluation in all fields of the exam.
Designer drugs are well-known as “dopalacze” in Poland (in English: boosters). They were freely available on the Polish market because of the legal loophole in the Polish Act of 29 July 2005 on Counteracting Drug Addiction. In 2010, after different mainstream media reported on several cases involving health problems caused by such drugs, the Polish Government ordered a nationwide crackdown on shops selling designer drugs, memory enhancers or noothropic substances.
In 2008, the Polish company KONFEKCJONER Sp. z o.o., one of the biggest suppliers of these products, tried to register the word trade mark DOPALACZE.com Z-345673 in Classes 30, 33, 34 and 39, but the Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection. KONFEKCJONER filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 4 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1319/11 dismissed it, and held that the word trade mark DOPALACZE.COM was intended to designate, inter alia, herbal substitutes for coffee, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and smokers’ articles, and delivery of goods and parcels. The recipients of these goods and services are generally understood as the broadest public possible, and the “average consumer” is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect. The Court ruled that the sign in question may suggest that the consumption of goods bearing this trade mark may cause specific narcotic effect. There was a sufficiently serious risk that consumers receive wrong message regarding the goods. Although, products such as coffee, cigarettes, tobacco, function as goods that add energy, they are treated as stimulants or tranquilizers, however, such a trade mark may suggest that the goods have been strengthened to induce a certain narcotic effect. Smokers’ articles are deemed as ancillary to the aforementioned goods for which the registration was sought, the same applies to delivery of parcels and goods.
The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark LAW24.pl applied for the Polish law firm Komarnicka Korpalski Kancelaria Prawna sp.j for services in Class 35 such as advising on business and business management consultancy, in Class 36 such as financial consultancy and financial and accounting activity, and in Class 42 such as legal services.
The PPO pointed out that the sign was applied for broadly defined legal services, and it cannot be registered because it lacks sufficient distinctive character, therefore it cannot be the subject of exclusive rights as others would have been deprived of the possibility to use it. The PPO noted that the applied trade mark is a company name, but there are different regulations regarding company names and the names of individuals. The PPO ruled that the right to the company name is not absolute, effective in relation to all (erga omnes). The PPO stated that the case of each applied trade mark is always considered individually on its specific conditions, so the argument that there is plenty of registered trade marks that include the word “law”, and the PPO should also grant the right of protection in this case, was rejected The PPO did not agree with the argument that recent visits to the website could prove that the trade mark in question has acquired secondary meaning. According to the PPO, the applicant has not submitted any evidence documents to confirm it. Komarnicka Korpalski Kancelaria Prawna filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 31 August 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1291/11 dismissed it. The Court agreed with the PPO and held that Internet address identifies a legal or natural person, but this identification is not equivalent, that the services provided by such person are marked with the same deisgnation.
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.
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.
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.
The mayor of the Polish town Rabka-Zdrój refused to disclose land-use planning maps. The request was filed according to the provisions of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments. The mayor decided that copyright law does not allow for the disclosure, because these maps were created by the Studio of Architecture and Urban Design from Kraków. The applicant filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Kraków in its judgment of 22 November 2010 case file II SAB/Kr 114/10 ordered to provide the requested information. The Mayor filed a cassation complaint.
The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 July 2011 case file I OSK 667/11 dismissed it, and held that as public information are deemed not only documents that were directly created/edited and produced by a public authority, but such a character have also documents that the authority uses to carry out the tasks entrusted to the law, even if the copyrights belong to another entity. The most important is the fact, that these documents are used to carry out public tasks by certain authorities and have been produced on behalf of those bodies. Therefore, it is not about exercising copyrights, but about the access to the content of the document that was created on behalf of public administration in order to carry out public tasks. The SAC noted that this opinion is already established in the case law of administrative courts for many years. For instance, the judgment of the Supreme Administrative court of 9 February 2007 case file I OSK 517/06, the judgment of the SAC of 7 December 2010 case file I OSK 1774/10, or the judgment of the SAC of 18 September 2008 case file I OSK 315/08.
In this case, the Court had no doubt that the maps were made in order to perform a specific public task, and were commissioned by public administration body. Its disclosure is not deemed as exercise of the copyright, but as the implementation of the right to access public information. If, there were statutory barriers to disclose such information in a certain way or in a particular form, or there were statutory grounds for refusal of access to public information, the Mayor was obliged to deal with the request in the form of process. However, the lack of disclosure, and lack of procedural decisions in this matter meant, that it was administrative inaction.
A journalists requested one of the Polish companies to disclose information about the earnings of its directors (CEOs) and members of the supervisory board. He also wanted to know how many prizes, bonuses and other financial inducements were received by the CEO and the board members in the last three years, and how much the company has spent on advertising and promotion, how much spending and subsidies were distributed for non-governmental organizations, staff training, banquets and small meetings. He also demanded the indication of dates, names and amounts, the method of selecting contractors. This request was based on the provisions of the Polish Act of 6 September 2001 on Access to Public Information – API – (in Polish: Ustawa o dostępie do informacji publicznej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 112, item 1198, with subsequent amendments. The journalist noted that the expected response should be sent to him via e-mail. The company provided information only on salaries, and refused to disclose other information that was subject to the request. The decision has been sent in the form of an electronic document to an e-mail address provided by a journalist. The company noted that other information belong to the category of “processed information”, therefore, the applicant has to indicate why the disclosure of such information is particularly important for the public interest. The journalist filed a complaint against this decision.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Gliwice in its judgment of 19 September 2011 case file IV SA/Gl 1002/11 rejected it, because of procedural reasons. However, the VAC held that the administration decision issued in the form of an electronic document must be signed by a secure electronic signature that is verifiable by a valid qualified certificate. The administrative decision that does not meet these requirements can not be regarded as signed, and therefore is not valid according to the provisions of Article 14 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, published in 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 14. Principle of written proceedings
§ 1. All matters shall be disposed of in writing or in the form of an electronic document as defined in the Act of 17 February 2005 on Informatization of Operation of Entities Performing Public Tasks (Journal of Laws No. 64, item 565, as ammended), to be served by means of electronic communication.
The VAC also noted that in this case the decision has not been delivered in the proper form.
The public administration body issuing the decision shall be bound by it from the time of its service or publication, unless the Code provides otherwise.
Although in this case the content of the decision was known but it was not delivered in the form provided in the provisions of the APC. The decision was in fact delivered in writing but it was served by electronic means and in a way that was inconsistent with the provisions of APC, which could not be considered as effective service.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Poznań in its judgment of 28 Jue 2011 case file I SA/Po 210/11 held that a subsidiary company is allowed to depreciate trade marks that were transferred to it as an apportionment, starting from the first day of a month, after one month the Polish Patent Office has granted the right of protection for these signs.
The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Łódź in its judgment of 23 September 2010 case file I SA/Łd 762/10 held that a person whose account on an auction website was illegally hacked and used for sale of goods by someone else, is not obliged account to tax for such activity.