Archive for: Polish Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 451/10

July 17th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2009, the Polish Patent Office declared that the right of protection for REAL trademark owned by real SB-Warenhaus GmbH from Germany, lapsed partially. The German company requested for the suspension of the contested decision. The request stated that the contested decision would cause a negative economic impact for real SB-Warenhaus GmbH, which, through a Polish subsidiary, uses lapsed trade mark continuously since 1997. The German company has made far-reaching financial investments to build market position of REAL trade mark, in Poland – around 10 million PLN. In addition, the public awareness of the brand position, has not only financial backing but also social, because the company built on Polish territory large-area markets, which are operated under the name REAL, therefore, renaming the company and its markets would also affect the 13,500 employees. Given the increasing competition in the market, other competitors, could in good faith (or intentionally) use this trade mark. There was therefore a real risk that, until final completion of this case, the distinctive character of REAL trade mark would be weakened.

R-132135

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 June 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 451/10 decided to stay the execution of the questioned decision and ruled that if the decision of the Patent Office has not been suspended, REAL trade mark used by the Polish subsidiary could not be used, and others could exploit the position of this trade mark. The Court also agreed that financial outlays made for the creation and operation of REAL’s supermarkets, were large, and the scale of employment in these supermarkets and the necessary change of the company name and the supermarket, could adversely affect the situation of workers.

See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 452/10“.

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 GZ 141/10

July 12th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 7 July 2010 case file II GZ 141/10 held that when examining the application for grant the right of assistance, a court does not undertake any action where the accurate data to allow the full assessment of the financial status and the applicant’s ability to pay are not known, because the applicant avoids to submit of relevant documents on this subject. The right of assistance covers the exemption from court fees and the establishment of the lawyer, tax advisor, or patent attorney. It is the interests of the party to demonstrate the merits of an application in the light of the statutory conditions for granting the right of assistance. See also “Procedural law, case FZ 165/04“.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 756/09

July 11th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

A former entrepreneur (natural person) requested a telecommunications company to remove his personal data that were used for marketing purposes. The company did not want to take into account the above-mentioned demands, arguing that the rights provided in Article 33 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, are not afforded for persons who perform or performed professional business activity (entrepreneurs).

Article 33
1. At the request of the data subject, within the period of 30 days, the controller shall be obliged to notify the data subject about his/her rights, and provide him/her with the information referred to in Article 32 paragraph 1 point 1-5a as regards his/her personal data, and in particular specify in an intelligible form:
1) the category of personal data contained in the file,
2) the means of data collection,
3) the purpose and the scope of data processing,
4) the recipients of the data and the scope of access they have been granted.
2. At the request of the data subject, the information referred to in paragraph 1 shall be given in writing.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 March 2010 case file I OSK 756/09 held that provisions of Article 6 of the PPD does not differentiate the rights of individuals, depending on whether they are performing business activity or not. In this situation, there was no reason to exclude information about natural persons conducting business/economic activity from the protection guaranteed by the PPD.

Article 6
1. Within the meaning of the Act personal data shall mean any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.
2. An identifiable person is the one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to his/her physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity.
3. A piece of information shall not be regarded as identifying where the identification requires an unreasonable amount of time, cost and manpower.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection” and “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

Polish patent attorneys, case II GZ 224/09

June 28th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 May 2010, case file II GZ 224/09 ruled that the 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, did not afford a possibility of making a further appeal, or complaint from the judgments delivered by the Supreme Administrative Court. This means that the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court becomes final upon its publication. The administrative proceedings, as a general rule, is divided into two stages of jurisdiction. This principle is consistent with the regulations included in Article 176(2) of the Polish Constitution.

Industrial design, case VI SA/Wa 134/10

June 27th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administratve Court in Warsaw in its order of 16 June 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 134/10 held that the principle of filing a complaint in the administrative proceedings through a public authority/body means that in case of a complaint filed directly to the administrative court or through a public authority other than the one whose action or inaction is the subject of the complaint, that court or authority should hand on such complaint to the competent authority of public administration. The deadline to bring an action referred to in article 53 § (1-3) of the PBAC, is decided on the date when the complaint was delivered to the relevant court or public administration body by the public authority who received it first.

This judgment is not yet final. A cassation complaint may be filed to the Supreme Administrative Court.

See also “Polish regulations on industrial designs” and “Polish case law on industrial designs“.

Procedural law, case II FSK 153/09

June 11th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 21 May 2010 case file II FSK 153/09 held that the allegations made in the cassation complaint are key issues for identyfing the boundaries of a given case. The Supreme Administrative Court shall decide the case within the scope of a cassation complaint, examining ex officio only the invalidity of the proceedings. The legitimacy of cassation complaint shifts from the legitimacy of allegations that were raised in it, which should be demonstrated by appropriate justification. The exclusion by the Voivodeship Administrative Court of binding interpretation of law in a given case, that is based on article 153 of the PBAC, is a violation of law, in particular the democratic rule of law provided in article 2 of the Polish Constitution.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 370/10

May 21st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order 14 April 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 370/10 held that the complaint to the Administrative Court must be filed through the authority, whose action or inactivity is the subject of the complaint within thirty days from the date of notification to the applicant of the decision. The principle filing a complaint through a public authority means that in case of complaint filed directly to the administrative court or through a public authority other than the one whose action or inactivity is the subject of the complaint, the court or authority should pass it on to the competent authority of public administration. The date when the complaint was passed on by the court (public body) decide on the preservation of the deadline for bringing an action. If the complaint is brought after the deadline to file it, it shall be rejected. Terravita Holding Establishment from Vaduz, Lichtenstein was a party who lost this case. See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 370/10“.

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.

Personal data protection, case I OSK 633/08

March 11th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 July 2009 case file I OSK 633/08 held that the processing/storage/retention of personal data in backup copies of bank’s IT system is nothing but the processing of these data, and such processing is possible only in all cases defined by the provisions 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. In case, where the credit agreement was not concluded, the processing of personal data in backup copies has no justification in the provisions of the PPD and there is no such situation as referred in Article 26 of the PPD.

Article 26
1. The controller performing the processing of data should protect the interests of data subjects with due care, and in particular to ensure that:
1) the data are processed lawfully,
2) the data are collected for specified and legitimate purposes and no further processed in a way incompatible with the intended purposes, subject to the provisions of paragraph 2 below,
3) the data are relevant and adequate to the purposes for which they are processed,
4) the data are kept in a form which permits identification of the data subjects no longer than it is necessary for the purposes for which they are processed.
2. The processing of data, for the purpose other than intended at the time of data collection is allowed provided that it does not violate the rights and freedoms of the data subject and is done:
1) for the purposes of scientific, didactic, historical or statistical research,
2) subject to the provisions of Article 23 and Article 25.

The SAC also ruled that such processing is also not justified by the provisions of the Act on Banks Law.

See also “Polish regulations on personal data protection” and “Polish case law on personal data protection“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1144/08

October 17th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 25 September 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1144/08, published in LEX under the no. 513878, held that the descriptiveness of a trade mark is the sole and direct information which indicates the characteristic of the goods. The signs are not deemed as descriptive if in only through indirect conclusion can be considered as a determination of such features. This case concerned the examinations proceedings of the trade mark telepizzeria Z-284471 that was applied for by the Polish company BONO A. MAZUREK Spółka Jawna for goods and services in Classes 29, 30, 31, 32, 35 and 43.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1022/08

September 11th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 19 June 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 278/08 dismissed a complaint on the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the refusal to grant the right of protection for “clim PUR” Z-270334 trade mark applied for the goods in class 3. VALEO SERVICE société par actions simplifiée filed a cassation complaint.

R-221567

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 June 2009 case file II GSK 1022/08 held that the Court is not alone entitled to precise (supplement or refine) of the allegations included in the cassation complaint, or making hypotheses in this regard, sanctioning so to say its deficiencies. The interpretation of the scope and direction of a complaint is also not permissible, because the cassation appeal should be drafted in a such way that there would be no questions of its interpretation.

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.

R-164202

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.

Polish patent attorneys, case III CZP 118/08

January 29th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Court in its judgment of 23 January 2009 case file III CZP 118/08 held that an advocate, legal advisor or patent attorney who is acting as a substitute representative cannot authenticate a copy of the basic power of attorney that was issued in the name of the primary proxy. The court also ruled that the defect in form of a pleading based on improper form of powers can be removed by a confirmation of a party that issued the primary POA. The court should assign the other party a reasonable time limit for supplementation of a pleading and POA.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2113/08

December 23rd, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

Skandinaviska Farginstitutet AB the owner of NCS Natural Color System R-129085 trade mark filed opposition against the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of the right of protection for COLOR SYSTEM R-171995 trade mark for AGENCJA PROMOCYJNA “COLOR SYSTEM” Iwona Emilia Hachlica. The PPO dismissed the opposition.

R-129085

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 December 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 2113/08 affirmed this decision. The VAc held that the overall assessment of the likelihood of confusion, in relation to the visual, aural or conceptual similarity of the trade marks at issue must be based on the overall impression, taking account in particular, their distinctive and dominant components/elements. The Court ruled also that the registration of the trade mark in a given form does not afford the exclusivity in relation to particular elements of this trade mar, apart from situations where a part of the sign is a reputed/renown trade mark.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 361/06

December 12th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 9 July 1998, the Polish company called “Przedsiebiorstwo Uslug Technicznych INTEL Spólka z o. o.” (PUTI) applied for trade mark reigstration for word-figurative sign “i INTEL” in class 37 for services such as: electric appliance installation and repair, fire alarm installation and repair, burglar alarm installation and repair, installation and repair of extinguishing and smoke ventilation systems, installation and repair of access control systems, and in class 38 for industrial television. The Polish Patent Office has granted the protection rights in its decision of 9 December 2002. On 21 July 2003, Intel Corporation has filed an opposition against the PPO’s decision. Since the trade mark application was filed while the old Polish Trade Mark Act – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych) of 31 January 1985, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with subsequent amendments, was in force, so the opposition had to be based on its article 8(1) and (2) and article 9(1)(i) and (ii).

Article 8
A trademark shall not be registrable if:
(i) it is contrary to law or to the principles of society coexistence;
(ii) it infringes the personal or economic rights of third parties;

Article 9
(1) Registration of a trademark for goods of the same kind shall not be permissible where:
(i) it resembles a mark registered on behalf of another enterprise to such an extent that it could mislead purchasers as to the origin of the goods in ordinary economic activity;
(ii) it is similar to a trademark that is well known in Poland as a trademark for goods of another enterprise to an extent that it could mislead purchasers as to the origin of the goods in ordinary economic activity;

To support its opposition, Intel Corp. has provided arguments that a sign is applied for or registered in contrary to the principles of society coexistence if it seeks to use or to undermine the reputation of other trade mark, regardless of the nature of the goods or services to which it refers. Intel Corp. successfully argued that Intel is word trade mark which is well-known and reputable. It is widely recognized and valued as a synonym for the highest quality products branded by this sign (or its derivatives) in the IT sector. The widespread knowledge of that trade was also confirmed in the Polish Patent Office’s decision in early 1994. The features and the highest quality of Intel brand products have also to be attributed to the Intel Inside trade mark because of its equally vast, global popularity and strong positive associations among customers. Intel R-93693 and Intel Inside R-86431 trade marks were registered in Poland in priority, respectively of 8 November 1990 and 18 June 1991.

“i Intel” is a sign which has a distinctive part consisting of Intel sign which is similar to Intel Copr. trade marks. It leads consumers to think that there is an association between Intel Corporation and a disputed sign, consequently, there is a risk of confusion as to the origin of goods or services which are identified by the disputed mark. According to Intel Corp., the use of the contested trade mark by PUTI was based on the reputation and the widely recognized quality of Intel trade mark. PUTI registration was made in favour of its marketing business and for the economic benefits of the Polish company. This kind of behavior also brings the risk of confusion among consumers as to the identity, trade and economic links and between Intel Corporation and PUTI. In addition, Intel Corporation has filed the explanatory memorandum arguing that “i Intel” sign violates the applicant’s personal rights. The firm (protected as personal rights under the Polish Civil Code) is the name under which Intel Corporation conducts its business, it is also the reputation of a company, to which the applicant has worked since 1968 (the establishment of Intel Corporation in the U.S.).

Since fields of business activities of PUTI and Intel Corp. did not overlap, The Polish firm argued that Intel Corp. had not demonstrated that the disputed trade mark makes difficult for Intel to use its company name. PUTI has also argued that the opposition should not be based on article 9 of the PTA since the disputed trade mark is designated for services not goods. PUTI argued that it has been using the name “Przedsiebiorstwo Uslug Technicznych INTEL” in 1989 and 1990, which was before Intel Corporation had registered its trade marks in Poland.

The Polish Patent Office invalidated “i Intel” trade mark in its decision of 19 October 2005. It was proved before the PPO that PUTI was founded on 23 July 1997 as a limited liability company, and previously (from 1 November 1983) it had operated on the market in the form of a civil company and the name Intel had been used for the first time in its firm in 1994. In PPO’s opinion, PUTI’s use of “i Intel” sign with ® before trade mark registration was granted was also a proof of taking the advantage of reputation of Intel Corp. trade marks, which was contrary to the principles of society coexistence that were defined in this case as a matter of fairness trade.

PUTI appealed. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 21 April 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 126/06 dismissed the appeal. The court held that trade marks of Intel Corp. that were registered with the earlier priority are renowned in Poland in relation to the persons involved in electronics, computers, electrical and electronic equipment of various kinds, and PUTI’s application for the contested trade mark was intended to use the reputation of Intel Corp. trade mark portfolio. In court’s opinion the Polish Patent Office has had to compare these trade marks with the disputed sign in aural verbal and visual aspects and it has reasonably concluded that there is a clear likeness between them, and given that the signs are used for determining goods, which are compatible with regard to services to which the disputed trade mark is intended use, so there was a condition for the inadmissibility of the disputed trade mark registration within the meaning of article 9.

PUTI filed a cassation complaint before the Supreme Administrative Court. However, the Court dismissed the case in its judgment of 15 May 2007 case file II GSK 361/06. SAC explicitly held that Intel is well-known trade mark on the Polish market (strong sign) and its reputation was not questioned even by the Polish company. Consequently, it should be considered that the danger of confusion between trade marks by customers, is the greater, the more well-known (or as the Court also said – standardized) is a trade mark with an earlier priority, because customers’ memory directs them in a particulary easy way, to trade marks which are well-known on the market.

Procedural law, case II GSK 350/06

November 24th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 April 2008 case file II GSK 350/06 held that the duties of the Polish Patent Office to take all necessary steps to clarify the facts of a case and to resolve it, having regard to the public interest and the legitimate interests of members of the public cannot be “transferred” to the litigation proceedings in patent cases based on the provisions of Article 256(1) 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.

Article 256
1. The provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure shall apply accordingly to litigation procedure before the Patent Office in cases not regulated by this Law..

2. To costs of proceedings the provisions applied in civil law proceedings shall apply accordingly.

3. The provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure governing re-examination, at a party’s request, of cases, in which decisions not liable to appeal were taken, shall not apply to decisions on merits taken after hearing.

31. The cases referred to in Article 2553(2) may be requested to be re-adjudicated. A time limit for submitting a request shall be, in case of a decision made – two months and in case of an order issued – one month from the date of the decision or the order being served upon the party.

4. (repealed)

This is because the Article 255(4) of the IPL includes provisions that fully cover this regulation and precludes the possibility of the complementary use of provisions of Article 7 and 77 of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, 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 255
4. The Patent Office shall settle cases in litigation procedure within the scope of the request and shall be bound by the legal ground invoked by the requesting party.

The Court also ruled the such findings do not preclude, of course, the activity of the Polish Patent Office to collect evidence, provided that they fall within an already pending case in litigation proceedings.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 406/08

October 28th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The MIŚ company has operated on the Polish market since 1956 in the form of an “industrial plant”, but until 1978, it used the name “Wojewódzki Zwiazek Gminnych Spóldzielni Samopomoc Chlopska-Zaklad Wyrobów Cukierniczych Miś” in Oborniki Śląskie. The complex name was changed to “Spóldzielnia Pracy Produkcyjno Handlowa MIŚ” in 1978 and again to “Zaklady Wyrobów Cukierniczych MIŚ” in 1992.

R-90583

Włodzimierz Miś and Jerzy Miś – “Bracia Miś” (Bear’s brothers) have started their activity in 1989. They use a single word “Miś” (bear) as their company name and produce confectionery since 1993. “Bracia Miś” have applied for the word-figurative trade mark “Mis” in 1992. The Polish Patent Office has granted the protection right in 1995 under the no. R-83022. The Company from Oborniki Slaskie received trade mark protection right for the figurative sign consisting of bear’s head in 1996 under the no. R-90583.

R-83022

Zaklady Wyrobów Cukierniczych MIS filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection of “Bracia Miś” trade mark. The PPO agreed and invalidated the contested trade mark in 2001 for the first time. The case went for the appeal to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw which annuled the PPO’s decision. The Administrative court pointed that Polish Patent Office did not properly justified its decision and did not consider judgments of two civil courts that previously ruled in case of “Bracia Miś” and Zaklady Wyrobów Cukierniczych MIŚ as regards similarity of both signs and the use of “Bracia Miś” trade mark as a company name (a short explanation: Polish civil courts decide trade mark infringement cases while administrative courts decide appeals and cassation complaints related to administrative procedure and cases before PPO).

Once again, the PPO invalidated “Bracia Miś” trade mark in 2007. The Office ruled that the registration should not be allowed because it violated personal rights of Zaklady Wyrobów Cukierniczych MIŚ – the right to a company name – which enjoyed a long tradition and reputation. Again, the case went for an appeal to VAC. Trade mark attorney who was representing “Bracia Miś” presented arguments that their products are only sold in company’s owned shops and there is no risk of consumers confusion. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 22 October 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 921/07 did not follow such arguments so the case went to the Polish Supreme Administrative Court as cassation complaint. The SAC agreed with “Bracia Miś” and held that the PPO did not indicate on which evidences the annullement was based in its decision and that the PPO failed to comply with regulations provided in the Code of Administrative Procedure. The VAC by accepting PPO’s decision has failed to comply with administrative proceedings rules which which in consequence was the reason to invalidate VAC’s judgment.

The judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 6 October 2008 case file II GSK 406/08 is final and binding. It means that the Voivodeship Court has to annul the Polish Patent Office’s decision from 2007 and order the PPO to reconsider the invalidation of “Bracia Mis” trade mark. See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2258/08“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 332/08

October 14th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

On December 1999, Polish company Top Choice Agata Murawska has applied for trade mark registration for word mark WINNER and word-figurative sign W WINNER in Class 21 for goods such as combs, hair brushes and other products and in Class 29 for rollers. In 2003, The Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection respectively R-148543 and R-148540.

R-148540

The Company Inter Vion SA from Warszawa decided to invalidate aforementioned registrations claiming that those trade marks are the company name (the firm) of Tong-Fong Brush Factory Co. Ltd., from Taiwan which is one of the biggest producers of brushes, combs and mirrors (60 milions of pieces produced in 2000). The WINNER sign, although not registered, was used by Taiwanese company since 1997 on the Polish market. The Company from Taiwan presented an offer involving a series WINNER products to several of Polish companies, including Inter Vion and Top Choice. Since 1998 Top Choise has imported the above-mentioned accessories bearing WINNER trade mark, first by intermediaries, and since 2000 directly from the Taiwanese company. InterVion has signed its first importation contract for WINNER products in 1999. The company has presented first images of these goods in its directory of 1999/2000. During invalidation proceedings before the Polish Patent Office InterVion has alleged that Top Choice, by registering the disputed marks, tried to gain a monopoly on the importation of products.

The PPO invalidated WINNER and W WINNER trade marks in its decision of 4 October 2006, act signatures Sp. 119/05 and Sp. 46/06. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw has dismissed Top Choice’s appeal complaints in its judgments of 27 August 2007, case files VI SA/Wa 114/07 and VI SA/Wa 115/07. Top Choice filed a cassation complaint before the Supreme Administrative Court claiming that VAC erred in its findings and violated the administrative procedure rules.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 October 2008 case file II GSK 332/08 dismissed the cassation and based its arguments on procedural errors included in Top Choice’s complaint which in Court’s opinion lacked proper claims’ construction. However, SAC also held that company who registered other company’s name as a trade mark acted in bad faith which was a sufficient circumstance to declare invalidation of such trade mark by the PPO.

E-signature law, case I OPP 25/08

September 18th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its order of 24 July 2007 case file I OPP 25/08 held that the letter that was brought by electronic means must be signed in person by a party or its representative to become legally effective, because only such signature meet the requirements under Article 46 § 1 pkt 4 of the Act of 30 August 2002 on the Law 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.

In accordance with Article 5(1) of the Act of 18 September 2001 on Electronic Signature – ESA – (in Polish: ustawa o podpisie elektronicznym), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 15 November 2001, No 130, item 1450, with subsequent amendments, the secure electronic signature verified by a qualified certificate which has legal effects specified in the Act, if it is filed during the validity of this certificate. The Chapter IX of that ESA contains provisions amending, inter alia, the Civil Code Article 60, Article 78 §1 and §2, allowing for state the will of a person in the cicil law relationship by the disclosure in electronic form. In addition, 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 No 64, item 565, in Article. 36 pt 3 and 5 introduced amendments of the provisions of the Administrative Proceedings Code, i.e. Article 57 § 5 pt 1 and Article 63 § 3a by allowing the opportunity to provide a request in the form of an electronic document. The above provisions apply only to the extent that the given Act governs.

In the Polish Act of 17 June 2004 on Complaint on the Infringement of the Right of a Party to be Beard in Court Proceedings without Undue Delay, published in Journal of Laws of 16 August 2004, and in the provisions of the PBAC, there are no equivalents of the abovecited provisions of the Civil Code and the APC, and the definition of electronic signatures does not exists in these acts. According to Article 2(3) of the IEPPT, the provisions of this Act shall not apply to administrative courts in the administrative proceedings. Consequently, in this case the Supreme Administrative Court was not obliged to use in the e-mail correspondnce of certificates that are referred to in the ESA.

See also “E-signature law, case II SA/Gd 573/10” and “E-signatures in Poland“.

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“.

Procedural law, case VI SA/Wa 2091/07

June 27th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 March 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 2091/07 held that the restoration of a deadline/time limit is an institution aimed at protecting individuals against the consequences of failure to fulfill the term. It applies only to procedural time limits and to deadlines to perform proper actions in the proceedings, for example, the deadline for lodging an appeal. Article 252 of the IPL excluded the application of the provisions of the APC in matters governed by the IPL.

Article 252
Subject to Article 253, the provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure shall apply accordingly to cases not regulated by this Law.

The Court ruled that it is possible for a party to file a request for the re-examination of the case even if that case ended with the decision that has beneficial consequences for the requesting party. In the opinion of the Court there are no provisions forbidding to challenge decisions favorable to the party. See also “Procedural law, case VI SA/Wa 934/10“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 262/08

June 17th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 30 April 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 262/08, published in LEX under the no. 512901, held that the interests of all market participants must also taken into account when examining the registrability of a trade mark. The grant of the right of protection for a trade mark cannot lead for the monopolization by one entrepreneur of signs that are in the public domain. This case concerned the examination proceedings of the word trade mark polbar Z-278236 that was applied for by Akademia Rolnicza from Lublin. The word “polbar” is used as the name of the hens’ breed.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 309/07

March 30th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 20 March 2007, case file VI SA/Wa 1998/06 ruled that the source of legal interest to seek a declaration on the lapse of the right of protection for a trade mark may be general rules of law that create the right of establishment of business activity (article 20 and article 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland). However, any person requesting the Patent Office to make a decision on the lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark must prove, on pain of dismissal of such application, that the disputed trade mark limits business activity of an applicant, or it has negative impact the legal situation of the applicant. This case concerned ION R-110244 and ION WEST R-11020 trade marks.

The court deciding this case was aware that divergent views on the subject of legal interests are presented both in the legal doctrine and the case-law. One part of the legal doctrine and practising lawyers believes that a lack of legal interest justyfies the issuance of a refusal based on the formal reasons, and another part’s view is that in this case, the PPO should take the decision to discontinue the proceedings. The court cited the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 7 September 1989, act signature SA/Ka 441/89 and its critical gloss written by Barbara Adamiak, published in OSP 1991/2/33.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 25 January 2008 case file II GSK 309/07 ruled that the request for a referral to the Court of Justice regarding the question whether the article 12(1) of First Directive 89/104/EEC of the Council, of 21 December 1988, to Approximate the Laws of the Member States Relating to Trade Marks allows Member States to introduce into the national law an additional substantial prerequisite regarding the legitimate interest, limiting the class of persons allowed to seek for a declaration on the lapse of the right of protection for a trade mark that was failed to be put to genuine use to those who are able to demonstrate their interest and depriving such possibility the business entities having the actual interest, including economic one, is unfounded.

Trae mark law, case II GSK 380/07

March 5th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to recognize the right of protection for CHECK-UP IR-0595827 registered under the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks for Zabaione GmbH and used to designate the goods in class 25, such as clothing for men, women and children and bars for clothes. The PPO ruled that the questioned sign is similar to CHECK-IN IR-0552746 trade mark registered with an earlier priority from 19 June 2002, for Hohe-Modelle Maria Hohe GmbH & Co., intended for marking of the goods in Class 25 such as outerwear for ladies and children.

The PPO ruled that to fulfill the provisions of Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL, it is necessary to accumulate of the several factors: the signs must be similar to each other, the goods for which trade marks are meant should be homogenous, and as the consequence of the similarity of the signs and the goods, there is a risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods covered by those trade marks.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 23 April 2007, casefile VI SA / Wa 145/07 dismissed the complaint filed by legal predecessor of Zabaione GmbH. In the opinion of the VAC, the Polish Patent Office correctly refused to recognize the right of protection for a trademark CHECK-UP, pointing to its similarity to CHECK-IN trade mark and the similarity of the goods in class 25, and acknowleded that it may lead to the risk of misleading the public. According to the Court, the PPO correctly assessed the similarity of signs, and rightly pointed out that the trade marks are similar to each other both visually and phonetically because of the first parts of the two signs. Both trade marks are composed of two elements, and have the same first part, “CHECK” and accordingly the suffix “UP” in the applicant’s character and the suffix “IN” in the opposed sign interconnected by a hyphen. According to the Court, the signs are also similar in the aural aspect – they are pronounced very similarly. Different suffixes are not sufficient to prove diversity of both signs. These are components are of secondary importance. The court shared the view of the PPO that the recipient pays more attention to the first elements of signs, and less to the endings, because visually the first letters and syllables attract the most attention and are better remembered. The average customer usually does not examine in detail all the elements of the trade mark, but it perceives a given sign as a general impression.

The VAC agreed with the applicant that the two signs have completely different meaning in English, however, the similarity of signs shall be always from the perspective of the average consumer. The knowledge of English in Polish society is not yet sufficiently widespread. For a person who does not speak English language these signs are fanciful.

The Court shared the opinion of the PPO that both signs are intended to designate similar goods in class 25 and the goods are complementary. According to the Court, a customer who knows goods under the brand CHECK-IN, may think the same company introduces a new range of clothing for men, women and children, branded with CHECK-UP trade mark. The Court emphasized the fact that Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL uses the term “identical or similar goods”, i.e. the similarity of the goods is not identical as their identity. Similarity occurs in the case of goods of the same kind of similar purpose and conditions of sales. Clothes, for which both trade marks are deisgnated are undoubtedly similar goods regardless of their differences in assortment. The average customer can therefore assume that they are produced by the same manufacturer. An outerwear manufacturer of high quality and original clothes designed for specific audiences, could in fact release a new line of clothing of average standard intended for a wider audience, marking it with CHECK-UP trade mark.

Referring to the applicant’s argument that the two signs benefit from protection in Switzerland and Germany, the Court emphasized that protection of trademarks in each country and the guarantee that effective protection is not absolute. The registration under the Madrid Agreement does not mean that a trade mark is protected automatically in each Member State. The applicant is seeking trademark protection on the Polish territory, so Polish law is applicable to the assessment of the trade mark registrability. The Company decided to file a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 28 February 2008, case file II GSK 380/07 dismissed the cassation. The SAC noted that the Company has not provided any arguments concerning the erroneous interpretation of Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL. It did not indicated whether there was the breach of any regulations on administrative proceedings. If there is no infringement of the proceedings, it can not be argued that there is a breach of substantive law, in this case, Article 132(2)(ii), just because the plaintiff thinks the facts are different. The SAC ruled that if the cassation complaint is based on allegation of improper application of a given provision of substantive law, the arguments included in such a complaint should explain why the accepted legal basis for settlement of the contested provision has no relation to the facts established, and what other provision the court should apply.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1180/07

December 13th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 November 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 1180/07 decided the case for the invalidation of the right of protection for the trade mark PANORAMA TURYSTYKI R-145420. The issue of the discontinuance of the proceedings appeared during the hearing before the Polish Patent Office. The PPO decided to stay the proceedings until the civil court decide on the authorship of the trade mark. One of the parties filed a complaint against this decision. The Court ruled that the decision on the matter of who has the copyright to the sign in question is a preliminary issue within the meaning of Article 97 § 1 pt 4 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 97. Compulsory stay
§ 1. A public administration authority shall order a stay of the proceedings:
1) in case of the death of one of the parties if it is impossible to summon heirs of the deceased party to participate in the proceedings, and if no circumstances described in Article 30.5 occurred, and if the proceedings may not be discontinued as groundless (Article 105),
2) in case of death of the statutory representative of a party,
3) in case a party or his statutory representative loses the capacity to enter into legal transaction,
4) if deciding the matter and issuance of the decision is conditioned upon a previous resolution of a preliminary issue by another authority or court.

§ 2. If the grounds for stay have ceased to exist, the public administration authority shall ex officioor upon demand of a party lift the stay of the proceedings.

The Court held that the PPO was allowed to summon the party to apply for the civil proceedings and to order a stay of proceedings in one order. Such order is not subject to the appeal. It can be only challenged in the complaint against the decision that also contains the conclusions of preliminary issue.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1470/07

October 30th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

This case concerned the invalidation proceedings of MURBET R-155245 trade mark owned by Przedsiębiorstwo Wielobranżowe MURBET Andrzej Zaborski. The proceedings were initiated by the MURBET Gabrylewicz Spółka Jawna company from Ełk.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 October 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 1470/07 held that the registration of a trade mark which infringes personal or property rights of third parties is unacceptable, and in light of case-law, in case of conflict between the company name (the firm), and a trade mark that registered with the “worse priority”, the priority shall be given to the earlier right. However, the exclusive rights to the company name (the firm) is not absolute. Its limits are set by the territorial and substantive coverage, the actual activity of person using the names. Only within these limits there may be a collision between identical or similar company name (the firm) and trademark.

R-222381

The VAC held that because of the distinct areas of the business activity of the person entitled to the company name and the holder of the right of protection to MURBET R-155245 trade mark, there is no risk of leading their consumers to confusion as to the identity of such business or the owner of the later trade mark. The owner of the questioned trade mark does not use the reputation associated with the earlier (identical or similar ) company name (the firm), then it is difficult to find the collision of these two rights, and consequently a breach of an earlier right to the company name by the registration of the later trade mark. The judgment is not final. See also “Trade mark law, case II GSK 400/08“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 269/06

October 6th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

By decision of 11 August 2005, the Patent Office refused to grant a right of protection for word-figurative “R-Profit” Z-234207 trade mark applied for by Raiffeisen Bank Polska S.A. for goods in Class 36 such as banking services for small and medium enterprises. The Patent Office concluded after examination proceedings that this sign may not be registered because it is similar to PROFIT R-87400 trade mark, registered for Bank Polska Kasa Opieki SA, with priority of 3 November 1993 for goods in Class 36 such as management of interest bearing money investments in zlotys. The PPO also stated that, in this case, the issue of services could not be challenged, since both signs are designed for the same services to a wide audience, i.e. banking services. The PPO ruled that both signs cannot exist simultaneously in trade without the risk of consumers confusions. In the opinion of the PPO there was no doubt that the trade marks are also similar phonetically and semantically.

Z-234207

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 11 May 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 542/06 dismissed the complaint filed by Raiffeisen Bank Polska S.A. and noted at the beggining that Article 315(1)(3) of the IPL, expresses the principle that the issue of the registrability of signs that were registered or applied for registration before 22 August 2001, is assessed on the basis of existing regulations. therefore the provisions of the Act of 31 January 1985 on trade marks are the basis for assessing the registrability of R-Profit trade mark, because it was applied for registration on 10 April 2001.

Article 315
1. Rights conferred in respect of inventions, utility models, ornamental designs, topographies of integrated circuits, trademarks and rationalisation projects, existing at the time of entry into force of this Law, shall remain effective. To these rights the previous provisions are applicable, unless the provisions of this Part stipulate otherwise.

2. Legal relationships established prior to the entry into force of this Law shall continue to be governed by the previous provisions.

3. Statutory requirements for the grant of a patent, a right of protection or a right in registration shall be assessed under the provisions effective at a date of filing of an application concerning an invention, a utility model, a trademark or topography of an integrated circuit with the Patent Office. However, the provision of Article 37(2) shall apply to patent and utility model applications pending at the date of entry into force of this Law.

In the opinion of the VAC that this case involved the same type of services. The Court agreed with the analysis of the list of services performed by the PPO that there exists homogenity of services between in both lists of goods. In the opinion of the Court, the PPO has properly analyzed the similarity of “R-Profit” and opposing “Profit” signs. Both signs should be compared in aural conceptual and phonetic aspects, bearing in mind that “R-Profit” is a word-figurative trade mark. According to the VAC, even though this case concenrs word and word-figurative trade marks, one may say that there exists graphic similarity, as “R-Profit” and “Profit” differ only by the letter “R” and the core of the two characters – “Profit” is identical. The VAC ruled that the argument that services in question have different distribution channels does not preclude the likelihood of confusion, because an average consumer may think that the service is derived from an entity that combines the organizational relationship and legal rights with the owner of “Profit” trade mark.

Raiffeisen Bank Polska S.A. filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 February 2007 case file II GSK 269/06 dissmised the case. The SAC held that the comparison of signs should be based on the general, overall impression, which compared trade marks have on the recipient, and thus if the dominant element in both signs are their common elements, there is a similarity between trade marks that is posing a risk of consumers confusion.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 296/06

September 30th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

By its decision of 15 July 2003, the Polish Patent Office has granted a right of protection for FEMISTEN R-146192 trade mark for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical preparations. On 28 July 2004, the Patent Office received a notice of opposition, filed by Solvay Pharmaceuticals B.V. from Netherlands, and it based its oppsition on FEMOSTON IR-624469 trade mark also registered for goods in Class 5. The Dutch company argued that the FEMISTEN is confusingly similar to FEMOSTON both in the phonetic, and aural aspects, and both signs are meant to designate the same kind of goods. The owner of the registration requested the PPO to dismiss the case.

The PPO in its decision of 16 November 2005 dismissed the application for the invalidation of the right of protection for FEMISTEN trade mark. In support of the decision the PPO stated that in its opinion there is no similarity of the signs and it likely will not mislead consumers as to the origin of goods. Both signs were considered as a whole as fanciful. The component FEMI in FEMISTEN trade mark indicates that the product is designed for women. There was some similarity in structure and wording of these signs (the two characters have the same number of letters and syllables, and the difference comes down to differences of vowels in these assays), but in the assertion of the PPO it would not mislead the recipients as to the origin of the goods from a particular entrepreneur. FEMOSTON is a trade mark meant for designation of pharmaceutical preparations used in hormone therapy, which are bought only on prescription, so these goods are available to the customer through doctors and pharmacists. Products bearing FEMISTEN are the skin-care goods, available without a prescription and not associated with hormone therapy. The buyers of pharmaceutical products are adults, which, thoughtfully make their choice by paying attention.

Solvay filed a complaint. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 25 May 2006, case file VI SA/Wa 537/06 dissmied the complaint and ruled that the collected evidence made it clear, that the proprietor of FEMISTEN trade mark at the moment of filing a request for invalidation did not market the goods covered by the disputed mark, but according to the declaration of the holder, Glaxo intended to bring to the market skin care preparations in the form of ointments and gels available without prescription. The Court considered the findings of the Patent Office in this regard as correct. The legal doctrine and the case law established already the method of examining of the homogenity of goods. It should be assessed according to the type of the goods, purpose of the goods and the conditions of their sale, and the mere fact of belonging to a common class of goods is not a decisive argument for the recognition of the goods as belonging to the same kind. The Court ageed with the comparison of these signs that was made by the PPO and noted that the similarity of signs, as referred to in Article 9(1), point 1 of the TMA, is not an independent category, but it serves a purpose, namely the elimination by refusing to register the mark, which would under normal conditions of economic activity to deceive consumers as to the origin of goods. Evaluation of the similarity of the marks must be made at the same time from the perspective of the average consumer of the goods.

Solvay Pharmaceuticals B.V. Decided to file a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court i its judgment of 13 March 2007, case file II GSK 295/06 ruled that the issue of similarity of trade marks has both the factual and legal aspects, and that the administrative court can conduct its own assessment of the similarity criteria used by the Polish Patent Office. See “Trade mark law, case file II GSK 36/05“.

The SAC noted that according to settled case-law, the similarity of trade marks are resolved on the basis of risk of confusion as to the origin of goods. And the risk of confusion as to the origin of goods consists of similarity of goods and similarity of signs. See “Trade mark law, case file II SA 2778/01“.

Therefore, an essential element of the facts established for purposes of comparison of trade marks in terms of their similarity is to determine what goods bear these marks. Such a requirement does not occur when the same signs lack of similarities that may lead to a risk of confusion as to the origin of goods. This situation occurs in particular when the word trade marks compared in the visual and aural aspect show significant differences, so that mistakes are impossible for the consumer regardless of the way of purchasing terms and conditions of sale. The SAC noted that for unexplained reasons, it was adopted as the basis for comparisons of goods, by how they will be used, based only on arguments provided by Glaxo, where it was not disputed that when the decision was contested before the VAC, no commodity was marked with the questioned sign. It was also important to consider whether the observed similarity in the spelling of the two signs may lead to the risk of confusion. For these reasons, the SAC reversed the contested judgment and referred the case to the VAC for further re-examination.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 265/06

May 7th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 1 December 2003, Telekomunikacja Polska S.A, filed an opposition against the decision of the Patent Office of 26 March 2003 granting the right of protection for word-figurative trade mark Teleaudio R-143563 for Teleaudio Sp. z o.o. for services in classes 38 and 41 such as line and/or phone numbers renatal, audio-text services, organization of entertainment and education competitions.

R-143563

TP S.A. stated that it is the owner of AUDIOTELE R-101622 trade mark and word-figurative trade mark AUDIO TELE R-101623, registered with the earlier priority, which are used in trade from 19 March 1995 for audio-text services. TP S.A. argued that it was the first company that lanched on 19 March 1995, a national audio-text system under the “audiotele” brand name. TP S.A. argued also that TELEAUDIO Sp. z o.o. entered the market of audio-text services almost a year later, and deliberately chose imitating sign for its firm (company name) and the trade mark, and copied the graphic which depicts a phone. According to TP S.A. such actions violated its property rights and might mislead the public as to the origin of services.

The PPO ruled that the differences between the trade marks were not sufficient to eliminate the similarity between the compared signs. The essential elements of those marks – the words AUDIOTELE and TELEAUDIO were confusingly similar. According to the PPO the figurative elements of marks perform only a supporting role, as they will be perceived by the public as a decoration, not as the most significant elements that identify the source of the services. The PPO has indicated that the average customer will focus on the words AUDIOTELE and TELEAUDIO because in assessing the similarity of characters as a whole, the dominant and convergent elements of the sign are of crucial importance.

R-101623

Teleaudio Sp. z o.o. decided to file a complaint. The Voivodeship Administrative court in Warsaw in its judgment of 25 April 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 2082/05 dissmissed the case. In the opinion of the VAC, the PPO has properly analyzed the similarity of TELAUDIO R-143563 trade mark and opposing AUDIOTELE sign. Both signs had to be compared, given the verbal, aural and semantic similarity. The VAC held that the case in question concerns the similarity of signs in verbal, aural and semantic aspects. The Court considered these factors as affecting the risk of confusion. The VAC noted that the PPO has analyzed the sign as a whole, and rightly presented the idea about the possible characteristics that may affect the ability to distinguish one trade mark from another. Teleaudio Sp. z o.o. filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 February 2007 case file II GSK 265/06 dismissed the case. The SAC ruled the VAC accurately assessed the similarity of signs as an integral whole. The SAC noted also that the case-law of the Supreme Court established the rule that the legal assessment on the basis of Article 7 and Article 9(1)(i) and (ii) of the TMA with regard to word-figurative trade mark should be based on an integral whole of a trade mark, and not only one of the words, which is only one of its components (see the judgement of the Supreme Court of 11 March 1999, case file III RN 136/98, published in OSN, 2000/1/2).

The Court ruled also that the issue of similarity of trade marks is both the factual and legal category. See also “Trade mark law, case II GSK 36/05“. The Court ruled that the VAC rightly pointed out that the similarity of signs is examined and assessed based on common elements of marks, not by the differences. Thus, the differences do not preclude the similarity of the signs. The examination of the similarity should thus lead to the objective similarities and differences, and their sum should be related to the average attention of a reasonable consumer (see U. Promińska, Naruszenia praw na dobrach niematerialnych, PIRzP, 2001, p. 95 and literature cited therein).