Archive for: Art. 141 §4 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 611/10

July 12th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Tiffany & Broadway Inc. Div. of Texpol Corporation from Huston filed a cassation complaint against the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw of 19 October 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 643/09. The VAC dismissed the complaint against the decision of the Polish Patent Office in which the PPO invalidated the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark TIFFANY R-153644. The request for invalidation was filed by Tiffany & Co. from New York. The New York’s company claimed the similarity of signs and a breach of its over 150-years reputation applied to jewellery products.


The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 31 May 2011 case file II GSK 611/10 overturned the questioned judgment and sent the case back for reconsideration. The SAC ruled that the reputation of a trade mark is associated with its high distinctive ability, and such ability is weakened if more entrepreneurs are using the same or similar trade marks to designate their goods. The Court noted that the reputation is a matter of facts and the evidence suggesting that this sign could be well-known and considered to be attractive also in Poland, due to the popularity of Truman Capote’s book and the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, was not sufficient. What was also important is the fact that the SAC noted that cases between the same parties relating to trade marks with the word “Tiffany” were already the subject of recognition by this Court. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 1110/08“, “Trade mark law, case II GSK 1111/08” and “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 214/08“. Although there were similar arguments presented by the parties, each case brought before the SAC was related to the legality of separate and non-identical decisions. The VAC has to consider these differences, but the SAC also ruled that it would be advisable to take into account the views expressed in earlier judgments of the Supreme Administrative Court based on the background of similar cases between the same parties.

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 II GSK 258/07

December 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procedural law, case II GSK 643/09

July 12th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 June 2010 case file II GSK 643/09 clarified the rules for a cassation complaint. Accordingly, a cassation complaint may be based on the violation of substantive law. The violation is based on legal misinterpretation or improper application of the law. Misinterpretation is a false understanding of legal norms. The improper application is a wrong recognition that the factual scenario established in a given case is a subject to a specific rule of law. The improper application of law may also rely on non-application of the legal provision which should be used in a given case. The violation of the substantive law by the court of first instance (the Voivodeship Administrative Court) is always based on the wrong assessment of the application of substantive law by the Polish Patent Office. That is, either through the unfounded acceptance of an error in law that was made by the PPO or unjustified accusation of the PPO of such error. The SAC stressed that the allegation of infringement of substantive law can be effectively formulated only when the applicant who filed a cassation complaint agrees that the facts of the case had been established properly. Putting this plea in the case of challenging the factual findings is premature.

Procedural law, case II FPS 8/09

March 23rd, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 February 2010 case file II FPS 8/09 held that if the reasons of the judgment of the Voivodeship Administrative Court do not include a position as to the facts adopted as the basis for the contested decision, it may constitute an independent basis for the cassation appeal.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 896/08

May 31st, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 28 April 2009 case file II GSK 896/08 held that the question of similarity or dissimilarity of trade marks does not belong to the realm of substantive law, but is decided based on the regulations on administrative proceedings, because it involves questions of the facts, not law. From the viewpoint of the risk misleading the customer to confusion as to the origin of the goods, in principle, the whole sign, not its individual elements are examined.


The Court ruled that during the proceedings in this case the company was trying to protect its trade mark “VANILA FASHION Izabella Kowalska” R-164202 based on the provision of Article 132(2)(ii) and not Article 132(2)(iii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

2. A right of protection for a trademark shall not be granted, if the trademark:
(ii) is identical or similar to a trademark for which a right of protection was granted or which has been applied for protection with an earlier priority date (provided that the latter is subsequently granted a right of protection) on behalf of another party for identical or similar goods, if a risk of misleading the public exists, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark,
(iii) is identical or similar to a renown trademark registered or applied for registration with an earlier priority (provided that the latter is subsequently registered) on behalf of another party for any kind of goods, if it without due cause would bring unfair advantage to the applicant or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trademark. The above provision shall apply to well-known trademarks accordingly.

The Court noted that the protection afforded to in Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL is weaker in comparison to a renown mark.

Trade mark law, case file II GSK 138/07

September 10th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 19 March 1998, with the notification of 17 September 1996, the Austrian company Red Bull GmbH has received the right of protection for its word trade mark based on the international registration IR-641378 A, in almost all classes (3, 5, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 39,41 and 42). On March 2004, the Polish company Przedsiebiorstwo Produkcji Lodów “KORAL” applied for the registration of the word trade mark RED BLUE Z-277694 in Class 30 for goods such as ice creams and other products. However, the Polish Patent Office recognized earlier priority of Red Bull’s trade mark and rejected the application.

Koral requested a motion to declare the expiration of Red Bull’s trade mark rights in Class 30, claiming that the Austrian company failed to put to genuine use of the registered trade mark for the goods covered by the registration for a period of five successive years. The PPO agreed with “Koral” and declared the expiration of Red Bull’s trade mark in its decision of 30 October 2005 case file Sp. 199/04. Red Bull’s evidences of use that were based on the fact that Austrian company has put its trade mark on boxes with sweets which were later sent during different occasions to customers and business partners were found insufficient. The date on which five years period ended was set by the PPO on 9 July 2004 (the date on which the request for invalidation was filed). Both parties filed a complaint against this decision. The Polish company did not agree with PPO’s findings as regards trade mark rights’ expiration date, and the Austrian company claimed that PPO should consider reputation of its trade mark.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 7 September 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 557/06 held that reputation is not taken into account during proceedings for lapse of a right of protection. Arguments that Koral company has no standing were rejected by the Court because both parties were also involved in unfair competition proceeding before civil court. Once again, both companies filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 September 2008 case file II GSK 138/07 ruled that the reputation of a trade mark is irrelevant when there are the invalidation proceedings. This is not the proper stage. The reputation could be taken into account during the application proceeding for Koral company’s trade marks. A single fact of non-used Red Bull’s trade mark being an obstacle for registration was a sufficient condition for declaring its expiry. Koral has also called into question the date of expiry of the right of protection. It was the reason for the Court to discuss this issue in the extended chamber. The Supreme Administrative Court in its opinion of 23 April 2008 case file II GPS 1/08 gave a very detailed explanation of that problem. See also “Trade mark law, case II GPS 1/08“.