Archive for: geographical name as trade mark

Trade mark law, case no. Sp. 407/12

February 12th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V. from Germany requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the international word-figurative trade mark BAVARIA IR-1051133 registered goods in Class 32 such as beer and non-alcoholic beverages for the Bavaria N.V. from the Netherlands.


Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V. claimed infringement of the right to a geographical indication, and noted that the questioned trade mark is misleading, and it was applied in bad faith.

However, the PPO has not had the opportunity to comment substantively on the matter, because during the hearings, Bavaria N.V. waived its right. In these circumstances, the Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decison of 22 January 2013 case no. Sp. 407/12 discontinued the proceedings as irrelevant.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 396/11

November 8th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

EAST SEA POLAND Spółka z o.o. filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark BIEN DÔNG R-204010 registered for services in Classes 36, 39 and 43, and owned by AEROCENTER TRAVEL Trinh Huy Ha.


EAST SEA claimed that this mark is descriptive, because in the translation from Vietnamese to Polish language, it is the name of the South China Sea – Biển Đông. This name is the official designation of the geographic area used in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and as such it should remain free to use on the market. The company argued that this trade mark may lead to consumers’ confusion, in particular those of Vietnamese nationality, as to the nature or characteristics of services provided by the owner, because the sign in its content relates to the maritime area, which is associated with maritime transport, and not to the services that it was registered for. EAST SEA argued that the Bien Dong designation may be misleading as to the place where services are provided, as the owner provides its services in Poland and not in Vietnam. It is worth mentioning that EAST SEA applied for three trade marks that include BIEN DONG words.


AEROCENTER TRAVEL argued that the Bien Dong is strictly abstract expression for the average Pole who doesn’t know what it means in Vietnamese. The Company disagreed, that this is false or fraudulently marked geographical origin of their services, since none of the customers going to the office in Warsaw would expect it to be in Vietnam at the South China Sea.

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition and EAST SEA POLAND decided to file a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 396/11 dismissed it and held that the Polish Industrial Property Law – in principle – does not preclude the registration in Poland as a national trade mark, the word that is taken from the language of another country in which language this word is devoid of distinctive character or it is descriptive for the goods or services for which the registration was sought, unless recipients/consumers in the State in which registration is sought, would be able to read the meaning of this word.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 691/09

October 5th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 14 October 2002, the Polish company BWS Polska Sp. z o.o. based in Zaczernie applied for the right of protection for VARNA Z-256235 trademark for goods in Class 33 such as wines. The Polish Patent Office informed the applicant that it cannot be granted a right of protection because VARNA is also a geographical name of the Bulgarian city of Varna, which is located in the eastern Black Sea region famous for producing high quality white wines. Due to the fact that the seat of the applicant is located on Polish territory, the sign may lead the potential buyers to confusion as to the origin of goods. In response, BWS noted that the sign does not contain any false information, while simultaneously indicating that it is an importer and distributor of wines from south-eastern Europe, including Bulgaria.

The PPO received also comments issued by BSG Poland Sp. z o. o. in which the company raised objection of lack of statutory requirements for the protection of the questioned trade mark. Comments were sent to BWS but the company has not agreed to these statements.

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant a right of protection. The PPO ruled that VARNA sign is information on the place of the origin of wine – the site of a wine-growing and processing, without informing the consumer about anything else. According to the PPO, the importer has the right to register its trade mark, but the choice that violates the rights of manufacturers who conduct business in the region of Varna – infringes on the principles of merchant’s honesty. A situation in which the Bulgarian wine producers could not provide the Polish consumer that the wine has been produced by them is not fair, because they were outrun by an entity whose relationship with Bulgaria is at least questionable.

BWS requested the retrial of its case. The company reduced the original list of goods to wines from Bulgaria. It argued also that, under a contract with the Bulgarian multi-vendor, which is located in Varna, it has exclusive rights to sell original bottled VARNA wine. BWS indicated that the packaging of imported wine, includes bottle shape and color and shape, color, composition and location of the graphic label and it is its own creation. The company pointed out that the Trade Mark Register includs other signs being the name of national and international cities, towns, and in its opinion, the registration of VARNA trade mark will not be the monopolization of the word, because the Varna city remains a geographical name, the name of the appellation of origin or possibly the name of the seat of the suppliers of wine.

After reconsidering the matter, the Polish Patent Office upheld the contested decision. The PPO withdrew from contesting the trade as contrary to good merchant’s practice and public policy, pointing out also that the limited list of goods also been removed as an obstacle to the misleading nature of the sign. However, the PPO ruled that VARNA is the word trade mark, with no graphics, and indicates the origin of goods, therefore, it cannot be registered. The average consumer will read the sign as the Bulgarian city or geographic region on the Black Sea, famous for making wines. BWS filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 March 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2098/08 held that the contested decision is the right. According to the Court the basic prerequisite for the grant of the right of protection is the distinctive character of a sign. The legal doctrine distinguishes between the so-called abstract distinctive ability and the concrete distinctive ability. The mark is characterized by the abstract distinctive ability, where a sign is examined abstractly (in isolation from the specific goods or services) capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of another. The mark has concrete distinctive character when it is capable of distinguishing goods or services specified in the application to the Patent Office of goods or services of another company.

BWS filed a cassation complaint. The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 13 July 2010 case file II GSK 691/09 reversed the contested judgment and refered the case back for reconsideration. The SAC held that the VAC overlooked in its deliberations, the fact that the disputed word mark VARNA is not present in the Polish language as the name of the city in Bulgaria. This spelling of the city name does not occur in Bulgarian either (it’s Варна). However, in Polish language the city is known as Warna. Meanwhile the VAC in assessing the facts of the case stated that it was undisputed that the sign is the name of the VARNA city in Bulgaria and that by placing it on the goods (wines originating from Bulgaria) it will indicate the relevant public without difficulty and without no additional actions the origin goods. The Court had the duty to assess the legality of the contested decision of the Polish Patent Office even if the allegation was not raised in the complaint. The law requires that the assessment whether the mark is sufficiently distinctive has to be made individually for each sign. The VAC should also examine the issue whether a questioned sign due to the use of the first letter “V” and not “W” (as is correctly spelled in Polish) has sufficient distinctiveness, although phonetically the “V” and “W” letters sound the same in the Polish language. Of those grounds the SAC held that the VAC has not made an overall assessment of distinctive character of the sign in question, taking into account its visual, aural or conceptual elements, and therefore the VAC infringed on Article 113 §1 and Article 145 §1 point 1 C of the Polish Act on Proceedings before Administrative Courts, since it dismissed the case without adequate explanation of the matter. The SAC noted also that the BWS claimed that, under the earlier decisions of the PPO, it acquired rights of protection for trademarks, even though they were the names of cities (Melnik – a city in Bulgaria), Calama (a city in Chile), or Beverly Hills (a city in California), however, the VAC did not respond to such arguments. In light of the settled case-law of the Supreme Administrative Court, the administration body can change its opinion on the content of the right conclusion, which should be issued in a specific type of cases, but it must carefully justify such a change, especially when changing the view of decisions taken in relation to the same applicant. The case-law of the administration may therefore be subject to change, if the authority demonstrates that there are reasonable grounds.

Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08

July 11th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On August 2008, in a post entitled “Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07” I commented on two decisions of the Polish Patent Office regarding differences in labels for mineral water that shared the same word element “Zloty Potok” (“Golden stream”), this being also the name of a village from Gmina Lesna.

The vogt of Gmina Lesna and Zloty Potok Company did not agree with PPO’s findings and they lodged a complaint to the Voivodeship Administration Court in Warsaw arguing that Sokpol Company’s trade mark “Zloty Potok” R-177610 may lead consumers to confusion as regards the orgin of goods, that it was applied for in bad faith and it is unlawfully using the name of a village. The PPO argued that according to the Court of the First Instance’s findings in case , Peek & Cloppenburg KG v. OHIM (Cloppenburg), the registration of geographical names which are unknown to the relevant class of persons is not in principle precluded.


The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw dismissed both complaints in its judgments, case files VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08. The VAC held that the disputed mark should be assessed as a whole, which in this case concerns a sign that is made up of figurative element and “Zloty Potok” description. In consequence, this trade mark is is fanciful sign which could not constitute the registration of a geographical or historical name. The sign does not mislead consumers because it does not contain information that the materials for the production of goods it was registered for come from Zloty Potok, but that they originate from Jura Krakowsko-Czestochowska. Thus the argument based on bad faith registration cannot be taken into account.

See also my posts entitled “Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02“, “Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02” and “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05“.

Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02

July 10th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 10 October 2002, the city council of Polanica Zdrój passed resolutution no XLIV/247/02 on permission to use the commercial name of the city. The council agreed that the trade mark application consisting of “Polanica Zdrój” words would be applied on behalf of ZUK company. The resolution also included an attachment – a model contract which was deemed as an integral part of the resolution. The format of this agreement had the same legal nature as the resolution. The agreement set out, inter alia, the terms and conditions of use of the city name as a trade mark for mineral water, the rules for ZUK company regarding the payment to Gmina, the amount of the monthly fee – set to one grosz (a hundredth part of 1 złoty) – from a bottle of water sold, but not less than 5000 PLN per month, the rules how to change the contract, the method of settling disputes.

On 5 Nover 2002, the governor of a voivodeship (a first instance body to decide on the validity of local governments legal acts) ruled the resolution invalid. The governor decided that Polanica Zdrój was not the name of local government (gmina) but a geographical designation that is widely used in the Republic of Poland and abroad. Nouns and adjectives based on that geographical name are used without any restrictions. Reducing the use of a common name and its commercialization requires a proper law – an enactment. In the current legal system, there is no such law, therefore in other cities their names are used without restrictions.

Gmina filed a complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court arguing that, while filing an application for the registration of trade mark consisting of the geographical name of Polanica Zdrój, the company ZUK has a mandatory obligation to demonstrate the right to use the name. The Governor asked the court to reject the complaint because a geographical name is not the name of local government but the name commonly used and there is no legal basis for placing restrictions on its use, and what is linked to that – to charge fees for the use of a Polanica Zdrój name and that the name of a place can not be regarded as a trademark.

The Supreme Administrative Court (oz. Wroclaw) in its judgment of 18 March 2003, case file II SA/Wr 2928/02 ruled that there is no legal basis for the municipal council to take a resolution on the commercial use of the name of the city and to establish the level of fees charged for such use. The city council has exceeded the scope of its powers by setting a draft of a contract in its resolution and stepped into the powers of the mayor which is a body entitled and empowered to manage the city, and thus being the right party to enter into such contracts.

See also posts entitled “Trade mark law, case I ACr 770/93“, “Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02“, “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05“, “Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07” and “Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1510/08

November 26th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

BWS Poland sp. z o.o. applied for trade mark registration for the word-figurative sign “SUNLINE TOKAJI FURMINT” Z-246957 on 26 February 2002, in class 33 for alcoholic beverages. The Polish company BARTEX-Bartol reported observations as to the existence of grounds that may cause a right of protection to be denied. BARTEX-Bartol claimed that Polish Patent Office (PPO) would undermine the protection of third-party rights, namely the Hungarian company Tokaji Kereskedőház Rt., because the sign that BWS applied for contained the name of the Hungarian Company. BWS explained that it imported wine from another Hungarian company and that the label “SUNLINE TOKAJI FURMINT” would not lead customers in confusion as regards the orgin of goods.

However, the Polish Patent Office issued a decision denying protection rights for a trade mark that BWS has applied for. The PPO held that granting protection rights would be against provisions included in articles 131(1)(iii) and 131(3) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with later amendments.

Rights of protection shall not be granted for signs:
(iii) which, as for their nature, may mislead the public, in particular as to the nature, properties of the goods or, with regard to paragraph (3), as to the geographic origin thereof.


Article 131(3) of the IPL
In the case of wines and spirits, any trademark, which incorporates geographical elements discordant with the true origin of the good, shall be considered as a trademark misleading the public.

BWS appealed to the Voivodeiship Administrative Court (VAC) in Warsaw. During the hearings, the company claimed that it imported the wine from the vineyard of Vagra Pincészet Kft, which sells Tokaji Furmit Sulina wine, and that the Hungarian company agreed the sign could be used by its Polish business partner. BWS argued that Tokaj and Furmit means the region and strain of grapes. BWS presented an opinion that it applied for trade mark protection for a specific word-figurative sign, and that it had no intention to prohibit anyone to use these names.

The Polish Patent Office emphasized that TOKAJI is geographical indication of this kind of alcoholic beverage, which is used by manufacturers in Hungary as had been already agreed with the European Commission (and procedures for the arrangements are discussed with Slovakia) – this is why the PPO is obliged to take such term into account as a GI. The PPO also pointed out that the company may distribute the wine under SUNLINE name and to use it toghether with TOKAJI word, but it is not allowed to gain exclusive rights in TOKAJI and FURMIT signs. The VAC in judgment of 25 September 2008, case file VI SA/Wa 1510/08, has fully agreed with PPO’s decision and dismissed BWS appeal. The judgment is not final.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07

August 11th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sokpol Company from Myszków has applied for the word-figurative trade mark “Zloty Potok” (“Golden stream”) in 2001. In 2006, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for this trade mark, R-177610.


Zloty Potok Company, which has its headquarters in the village of Złoty Potok, applied for a word-figurative trade mark “Zloty Potok Naturalna Woda Zródlana” in 2005. In 2007, the PPO granted the protection right R-185543. Zloty Potok and Gmina Janów have filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection Sokpol’s trade mark before the Polish Patent Office.


The patent attorney representing Zloty Potok argued that Sokpol’s trade mark is misleading because its products did not come from Zloty Potok’s spring from Janów and that such water is only produced by Zloty Potok. Sokpol only received a consent to use this name for its products from the administrative district of Gmina Lesna, where Zloty Potok is located. However the distance between the village of Zloty Potok and Myszków, where Sokpol is based,is around 370 km. This situation, in Zloty Potok representative’s opinion, could also lead to consumers confusion.

The PPO in its decisions case no Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07, has ruled that both “Zloty Potok” trade marks differ because of their rich layout and fancy designs and that there is no risk of consumer confusion as regards to origin of goods. These decisions are not final and are not binding. Both parties may lodge a complaint to the Voivodeship Administrative Court.

See also my posts entitled “Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02“, “Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02“, “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05” and “Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05

July 11th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 17 January 2006, case file VI SA/Wa 1945/05 in case concerning “SZCZAWNICKI zdrój” R-147476 trade mark ruled that the Polish Patent Office while deciding the request for the invalidation of the right of protection for a trade mark has to examine the sign in a form in which it was applied for the registration not in a form that the trade mark is used on the market, for example as the product label. The refusal of the invalidation of “SZCZAWNICKI Zdrój” trade mark (used inter alia as a designation for mineral waters), which was conducted by the Polish Patent Office without adequate consideration, especially in case if the disputed mark has information character that points to the place of origin of goods that are produced by the prorietor of the earlier trade mark registration and which may in consequence be perceived by the consumers as an indication which has no relation with a given producer, was made in violation with the provisions of administrative procedure.


See also my posts entitled “Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02“, “Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02“, “Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07” and “Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08“.

Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02

June 11th, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 10 April 1996 the Polish company PPZU Kry-Pop from Krynica filed a request to the Polish Patent Office to issuee a decision on the invalidation of of the right of protection for word-figurative trade mark Krynica Zdrój R-88722 owned by “Mul.” company from Warsaw (later on the ownership of the company was transfered to Krynica Zdrój Sp. z o.o. from żywiec) registered in class 32 for goods such as sparkling mineral water, mineral water and flavored water.


Kry-Pop argued that the contested trade mark is similar to its trade mark “Kryniczanka” R-95268 registered with an earlier priority which is also widely known in Poland for the designation of mineral water originating from the area of the town of Krynica. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 May 2004, act signature 6 II SA 1156/02, ruled that “Krynica Zdrój” and “Kryniczanka” trade marks are not similar to the extent that they may mislead customers as to the origin of the goods and they differ in visual and phonteic aspects. In addition, in the absence of similarity of both trademarks it was difficult for the Court to decide whether the rules of social coexistence were violated by the later registration of a trade mark which has a different phonetic tone and which is not misleading customers about the origin of goods.

See also “Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02“, “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05“, “Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07” and “Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08“.

Trade mark law, case I ACr 770/93

February 24th, 2005, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Appellate Court in Gdańsk in its judgment of 24 November 1993, case file I ACr 770/93, held that the name “Gdańsk” is not the local government unit, which is the “Gdańsk Municipality”, but a geographical name used in Poland and abroad. Foreign language versions are well-established names of Gdańsk, e.g. German – Danzig, Italian – Danzica, Latin – Gedania. Nouns and adjectives form the geographical name are used without restrictions. Restrictions on freedom to use and commercialize the public goods requires introduction of a legal act. However, there is no law limiting the use of the name of the city. In particular, the provision of article 18(1) of the Polish Act of 8 March 1990 on Local Self-government (in Polish: ustawa o samorządzie terytorialnym) Journal of Laws (Dziennik ustaw) of 1990 No. 16 item 1995, as amended, does not authorize the municipal council to restrict the use of geographical names and the introduction of fees for their use. There is another legal basis for such commercialization.

It should be also noted that the names of Polish towns and cities were settled in the Polish Act of 29 August 2003 on the official names of localities and physiographic objects, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 166, item 1612, as amended. The name, short name and coat of arms of Capital City of the Republic of Poland are regulated by the Act of 15 March 2002 on the system of Capital City of Warsaw, Journal of Law (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 41, item 361, as amended. In the case of place names, which are both common nouns, the refusal of protection shall be permitted only if the other elements of the trade mark are clear that the applicant refers his sign to the name of the village and not to an ordinary noun (e.g. in addition to the trade mark there is attached a map that identifies a name with a specific town).

See also posts entitled “Trade mark law, case 6 II SA 1156/02“, “Trade mark law, case II SA/Wr 2928/02” “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1945/05“, “Trade mark law, case Sp. 127/07 and Sp. 254/07” and “Trade mark law, cases VI SA/Wa 1996/08 and VI SA/Wa 1995/08“.