Archive for: Art. 133 §1 PBAC

Access to public information, case I OSK 1550/11

May 7th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

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.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 466/10

July 5th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Aquatherm GmbH registered a single green color determined by RAL 150 60 40 as a trade mark IR-863506 for goods in Class 19 such as rigid pipes of polypropylene for the supply of drinking water and heating and air conditioning systems in houses, office buildings and industrial buildings. The Company sought the recognition of the protection of its trade mark on the territory of the Republic of Poland based on the provisions of the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks.


On 11 July 2006, the Polish Patent Office transmitted to the International Bureau in Geneva a notification of the grounds which prevent the protection of an international trademark to be recognised on the territory of the Republic of Poland. The PPO decided that according to Article 120 of the Polish Industrial Property Law this trade mark cannot distinguish the goods, because it is a single color and it is devoid of sufficient distinctive character.

On 20 April 2007, the Patent Office sent a letter to the International Bureau with information concerning the correction of a clerical error in the notification dated 11 July 2006, informing that the provisional refusal to recognize the protection should include Article 129(1)(ii) and Article 129(2)(i) of the IPL and not Article 120 of the IPL. At the same time, the PPO did not consider the request of the Aquatherm GmbH to initiate an administrative hearing on the correction of this error. The PPO pointed out that the correction did not change the legal basis of the notification. The difference in the numbering of Articles 120 and 129 was a result of unfortunate, in this case, close arrangement of numbers 9 and 0 on the computer keyboard.

The Polish Patent Office in its decision of 9 May 2008 case DT-IR-863 506 refused to recognize the protection. Aquatherm GmbH filed a request for re-examination of the matter, but it was dismissed by the PPO in its decision of 10 June 2009 case PT-430/08 IR-863 506. The PPO did not agree with the Aquatherm GmbH that the registration on its behalf of the earlier trade marks such as IR-832895 or IR-837655 justifies the registration of the applied sign because each case is decided according to individual circumstances. The PPO held that it has not changed, as a result of correcting errors, the legal basis of the refusal.

Aquatherm GmbH filed a complaint against these decisions. The Company argued that the PPO infringed on Article 5(2) of the Madrid Agreement because it took its decision after the expiration of one year term that is calculated from the date of the international registration of the mark. The provisions that were used as the basis for refusal, were first indicated in the letter of 20 April 2007. Aquatherm GmbH argued also that the PPO mistakenly determined that the goods included in the list of goods and services are everyday consumer goods targeted for mass audiences, and that the green color is commonly used for the determination of water supply pipes, and aqueous solutions. According to the Company, the PPO has not made an exhaustive evaluation of the evidence, in particular, it completely ignored the key evidence submitted by the company in a statement of the Polish Corporation of Sanitary, Heating, Gas and Air-Conditioning Technology which included information on whether a given color may indicate the manufacturer
on the market of installations polypropylene systems, and whether the green color used as designation of pipes or installations allows the buyers to identify these products with Aquatherm GmbH.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 December 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 1452/09 dismissed the complaint. The VAC held that the provisional refusal cannot be considered ineffective. According to the Court, the PPO indicated the grounds for refusal which was in accordance with the Rule 17 of the Common Regulations under the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Protocol Relating to that Agreement. The Court noted that in the case of color per se its concrete distinctive ability must be interpreted in the light of public interest, which is based on the rules of the limited reduction of the availability of colors for other entrepreneurs who offer goods or services of the same kind as the goods or services covered by the registration application. The basic function of the trade mark is to guarantee the final consumer or user the identity of the origin of the goods or designated services bearing the trade mark by letting them distinguish the goods or the service of goods or services of different origin. The distinctive character of the sign is based on such features which in the minds of consumers clearly indicate that a particular product bearing a given trade mark comes from the specific company. The VAC noted that in relation to the color per se, it is assumed that the existence of primary distinctive characteristic (without any prior use) is possible only in exceptional circumstances, especially when the number of goods or services for which the mark is applied for is very limited and when the relevant market is very specific. The Court noted that the green color in relation to the applied goods is not unusual. The VAC agreed with the PPO that, in the case of green color used for the pipes used for water flow, there is a risk that consumers will associate it with nature, therefore, it should not be monopolized by one company, in particular, that this shade of green RAL 150 60 40 is also not original.

Moreover, the VAC found that the Patent Office has rightly used the example of PN-70/N-01270 standards Guidelines for marking of pipelines. The standard recommends that the painting for the identification of pipelines made ​​of carbon steel or other materials susceptible to corrosion should be coordinated with anticorrosive painting in which the topcoat should also fulfill the function of identification. It is customary to use green for water and chemical solutions that pose no chemical and thermal threat. The Court noted that the statement of the Polish Corporation of Sanitary, Heating, Gas and Air-Conditioning Technology could be helpful to support Aquatherm position, but also found that such a document can not be regarded as expert evidence under the provisions of Polish Administrative Proceedings Code or substitute evidence for opinion polls.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 April 2011 case file II GSK 466/10 dismissed the cassation. The SAC agreed with the findings included in the judgment of the VAC and ruled that the provisional refusal to recognize the protection is, by its very nature, some kind of a general statement issued by an authorized body of the state that is the party to the Madrid Agreement, and it includes the grounds which prevent the protection of an international trademark to be recognized on the territory of the Republic of Poland. The reasons given in the notification of provisional refusal set the boundaries within which the Polish Patent Office then investigates the case and its matter. However, as it was mentioned, the notification is of a general (signaling) nature and it is clarified in a subsequent administrative proceedings. In the event of a dispute, the position included in the notification is subject to detailed examination by the administrative courts, reflecting inter alia the context of a trade mark application, the nature of the applied sign, etc. As a consequence, the reasons of a provisional refusal should be explained in general terms and take into account all the circumstances specified in the notification by the authority.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1345/10

January 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polska Agencja Fotograficzna Studio 69 filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection for STUDIO 69 R-182300 trade mark owned by Marcin Maculewicz from Kielce. PAF claimed that the phrase STUDIO 69 was widely known and used by PAF as its trade mark. PAF also argued that according to 15 years of its business practice one can successfully operate on the media market without reserving or registering a brand name, and STUDIO 69 is a common sign that is also used widely by many companies. At the same time PAF did not claim infringement of the company name and explained that different entrepreneurs use such a sign.

The Polish Patent Office ruled that it is the duty of the opposing party to prove that a given sign is well known and is associated with products coming from the opponent. This should be demonstrated at the filing date of an application for the registration of a trade mark. The PPO explained that the well known sign is characterized by two elements. The first one is related to the function of marking the origin of goods/services (the distinctive function). A sign must have this feature in order to be registered as a trade mark. The second element is the requirement that a trade mark has became commonly known as a result of the use. According to the Polish case law and legal doctrine, a well known sign should be recognized in most of the territory, by more than half of potential purchasers of the goods. The basic criteria for assessing the objective possibility to become a well known trade mark include: the period of time of trade mark use, the situation of goods on the market (quantity, availability, method and scope of distribution), advertising campaigns and the strength/distinctive character of a trade mark. The PPO examined the evidence presented and reminded that common knowledge is assessed in terms of knowledge among potential customers. The PPO ruled that PAF has not demonstrated that more than 50% of potential customers on the Polish territory is familiar with STUDIO 69 trade mark and decided to dismiss the opposition. PAF filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1345/10 dismissed the case. The Court ruled that the Administrative Court, as a rule, does not carry out hearing of evidence, because the examination of legality of an administrative decision is based on the evidence gathered in the proceeding before an administrative authority (in this case the PPO) issuing the contested decision. According to Polish legal commentators, in principle, there are three sources of trademark protection within the industrial property law: the grant of a right of protection for a trademark (in the form of an administrative decision issued by the PPO), the use of a trade mark and common knowledge of a sign. The Court cited W. Włodarczyk, The distinctive ability of a trade mark, Lublin 2001, p. 28. The VAC held that PAF did not prove that STUDIO 69 was a well known sign. The judgment is not final yet.