Archive for: product packaging

Trade mark law, case II GSK 730/12

September 17th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

On May 2008, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark COOL RIVER R-205208 in Class 3. This sign was applied for by the Polish company Firma Handlowa A & S PARFUME FACTORY Marek Asenkowicz from Katowice.

ZINO DAVIDOFF SA filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. DAVIDOFF argued that COOL RIVER is similar to its trade marks such as DAVIDOFF COOL WATER R-71968, COOL DIVE IR-0850699, Cool Water IR-0615313. All these signs are intended to indicate the same goods as the questioned trade mark. DAVIDOFF also claimed that its trade mark COOL WATER IR-0812386 is reputed one. Moreover, the trade mark COOL RIVER has been applied for in bad faith, because A & S PARFUME FACTORY knew about the existence of earlier marks owned by DAVIDOFF. The sale by A & S of perfumes in almost identical packagings, as packagings used by DAVIDOFF was the irrefutable evidence of the use of reputation of DAVIDOFF’s trade marks and the application of COOL RIVER in bad faith.


The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office dismissed the request in its decision of 7 March 2011 case Sp. 483/09. While considering the visual and aural similarity of trade marks Cool Water, Davidoff Cool Water and Davidoff Cool Water Wave in relation to the questioned trade mark COOL RIVER, the PPO noted that all the words used in these trade mark have the origin of the English language. However, regardless of whether they will be pronounced in accordance with the spellings of the Polish language or in English, they are different in the visual and aural aspects due to the different verbal elements – WATER and RIVER. Furthermore, the PPO ruled that the word COOL, being the same element in all signs, is a common and popular word associated with something cold. The word WATER differs from RIVER in the visual aspect, and their pronunciation is different. The PPO also found that there were no circumstances indicating that A & S applied for its trade mark in bad faith. The burden of proving bad faith was on DAVIDOFF. At the same time, the overall assessment of the circumstances surrounding the consciousness of A & S at the date of trade mark application will decide on its bad faith. In the opinion of the PPO, such circumstances did not occur. Evidence such as the flyer entitled “list of alternative scents”, similar perfume packagings used by A & S as well as printouts from the website showing COOL WATER and COOL RIVER perfumes, were not sufficent to prove bad faith. Davidoff filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 January 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 2051/11 dismissed it. The Court agreed with the PPO that the trade marks are not similar. The VAC also held that the understanding of bad faith should be based on the provisions of the Polish Industrial Property Law. Bad faith occurs if someone applies for the trade mark in order to block other application or in order to block the use of the sign by other entity who uses this trade mark in the market or to take over the company’s market position. Bad faith also exists when someone is filing for a trade mark for speculative purposes, and there was no intent to use the applied sign, and in order to get benefits from the entity that owns such trade mark. Bad faith trade mark application happens when the applicant without due care or being aware, applies for a sign in violation of the rights of another person, or when the applied trade mark is contrary to morality or fair trade practices.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 September 2013 case file II GSK 730/12 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by ZINO DAVIDOFF SA.

Trade mark law, case I ACa 1268/12

July 4th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

Wytwórcza Spółdzielnia Pracy SPOŁEM (WSP SPOŁEM) from Kielce (the capital city of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship) sued ROLESKI Sp. J. for the infringement of word and figurative trade marks R-197616, R-170401, R-123588 and R-193780 and unfair competition torts/delicts. Both Polish companies produce different mayonnaise products that are sold in jars of a similar capacity. WSM Społem is a manufacturer of “Majonez KIELECKI”. In 2008, ROLESKI produced mayonnaise in a package bearing the designation “Świętokrzyski”. The label of this package was modified twice, by removing the word “Świętokrzyski” and by replacing it, during courts’ proceedings, by the word “Regionalny”. WSP SPOŁEM asked the District Court in Kraków to secure the claims and to issue preliminary injunction in order to prohibit ROLESKI, until the final decision is rendered, the sale of mayonnaise in a jar with a label containing a yellow background, a centered white box in the shape of an ellipse with a green border, and a green jar lid, and a round yellow sticker connected with jar’s side, and to seize and retain, until the final decision is issued, of all products held by the defendant in the form of mayonnaise packages with labels containing centered yellow background, a centered white or yellow field in a shape similar to an ellipse, framed or underlined by a green or red line, with a green round jar lids and a yellow label (band) connected to jar’s side, and also containing any of the elements described above.


ROLESKI requested the Court to dismiss the suit. The Company argued that it does not counterfeit products of WSP SPOŁEM as it manufactures own products bearing reputable trade mark, which in consequence, eliminates not only identity, but also the similarity of products. ROLESKI noted that if the two parties compete under their own brands, there is no harm to the reputation and distinctive character of their trade marks. According to ROLESKI, WSM Społem mistaken reputation of the registered trade mark with the concept of the reputation of a product. As a result, it does not prove the reputation of the figurative mark R-197616, but generally a particular product “Majonez KIELECKI”. WSM by designating its product with a word “Majonez KIELECKI” indicates only its generic name and determine the place of origin, and therefore such trade mark is devoid of any distinctive character, as opposed to the trade mark used by ROLESKI, that is a distinctive sign.


The District Court in Kraków in its judgment of 23 May 2012 case file IX GC 86/10 found that graphics of mayonnaise packages produced and marketed by ROLESKI were modeled on the graphics of mayonnaise package produced and marketed by WSP SPOŁEM. The Court noted that similarities outweighed the differences. The Court made findings of facts on the basis of documents submitted by the parties, as well as the testimony of witnesses and the opinion of an expert witness, except for the part where the expert speaks about the intentions of the designer’s of ROLESKI’s trade marks. The Court asked the expert on the likeness of packages containing the elements of trade marks and the impact of possible similarity on the likelihood of consumer confusion. ROLESKI filed an appeal complaint. The Court also found that ROLESKI used the word “Świętokrzyski”, but the office of the company was located in another voivodeship (Małopolska Voivodeship, in the Tarnów community), which was deemed as an act of unfair competition.


The Appeallate Court in Kraków in its judgment of 15 January 2013 case file I ACa 1268/12 dismissed it and ruled that the District Court has made ​​the appropriate findings. The Court noted that the evidence and testimony of expert witness allowed for a clear and comprehensive answer to the question of similarity of the goods, understood as a whole, including packaging, manufactured and marketed by the parties, taking into account changes made by ROLESKI in the appearance of mayonnaise packaging produced by the Company from Tarnów. The Court confirmed that by the use of the word “Świętokrzyski” together other elements similar to those attributed to WSM Społem, ROLESKI has exploited a set of associations created by WSM Społem for the product, which is mayonnaise with a specific package. The use of the additional word “Świętokrzyski” perpetuated these associations and allowed the Court to treat ROLESKI’s action as an act of unfair competition. ROLESKI appealed directly to the reputation of the product of WSM Społem by invoking the name of the capital of Świętokrzyskie region. The Court acknowledged similarity of the vast of words and figurative elements of packaging. All the elements visible on the packaging of both parties, although they include other wordings by the use of the same color and compositional arrangement lead to customer confusion as to the origin of the goods, and it also constitutes an act of unfair competition.

Trade mark law, case I ACa 1402/12

June 28th, 2013, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company SOBIK, a producer of butter, sued Okręgowa Spółdzielnia Mleczarska in Radomsk (OSM) for trade mark infringement of the word-figurative trade mark NATURALNY PRODUKT POLSKI, MASŁO EXSTRA OSEŁKA GÓRSKA z ekologicznie czystych terenów R-165550 and the word-figurative trade mark Naturalny polski produkt z ekologicznie czystych terenów MASŁO EKSTRA OSEŁKA GÓRSKA Naturalny polski produkt z ekologicznie czystych terenów SOBIK DOBRE BO POLSKIE Wyróżnione nagrodą konsumenta LAUR KONSUMENTA 2005 Wyróżnione Srebrnym Laurem Konsumenta R-203677 and three other trade marks.


SOBIK argued that OSM in Radoms used similar product packages for butter, in particular these with words “Masło Extra” (extra butter) and “Osełka” (butter pat) written in red font on white or creamy background, and with a layout of words and figurative elements that were similar to these used in the registered trade marks.


The District Court in Łódź in its judgment of 30 August 2012 case file X GC 391/10 held that SOBIK failed to show the existence of three products on the market and the competitive behavior of the defendant in respect of infringements of trade marks R-200466, R-200467 and R-195683. However, the Court found the infringement of other two signs and ruled that consumers examine packaging of products, such as butter, from a distance. The Court noted that everyday-use products (FMCG) are displayed in stores next to each other, which may lead to likelihood of confusion, because consumers do not attach so much attention in their selection. The Court also found that OSM was involved in acts of unfair competition by imitating products of SOBIK. OSM filed an appeal complaint.

The Appeallate Court in Łódź in its judgment of 29 April 2013 case file I ACa 1402/12 dismissed it and ruled that OSM was not prohibited from the use of words such as “Masło Extra” or “Osełka”, but the company cannot use similar graphic design for these words on its products that could lead to consumers’ confusion.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 2324/11

October 5th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Julius Sämann Ltd., the owner of the figurative trade mark WUNDERBAUM IR-0579396, 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 Forest Fresh R-183901 owned by S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek. Both trade marks were registered for similar goods in Class 5, mainly air freshening products. Julius Sämann Ltd. claimed that because of the similarity of goods there is a risk of misleading the public, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark. The company provided also evidence on reputation of its trade mark.


The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO decided that three required conditions had to be cumulatively met in this case: i) the reputation of the earlier mark, ii) the similarity or identity of signs, iii) if it without due cause would bring unfair advantage to the owner of the later trade mark or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trademark. The PPO noted that the case law distinguishes between absolute and relative methods of assessing reputation. The first one considers knowledge of the mark and takes into account primarily the percentage of a certain degree of its recognition on the market. The relative method emphasizes different criteria, including the degree of the recognition of the trade mark, the market share in terms of quantity and value of goods sold, the extent and duration of product advertisements marked by the sign, territorial and temporal scope of its use, licenses granted, quality of the goods, the value of the sign in the evaluation of independent financial institutions, the size of expenditures incurred in connection with the promotion of trade, as well as relationship price of substitute goods. The evidence material can be public opinion polls, prizes and awards, press releases, ratings, reports, invoices and other commercial documents, as well as various promotional materials. The Polish Patent Office has adopted a mixed methodology in this case, and ruled that both the evidence on reputation, that was claimed and established before the date of application of the contested trade mark, as well as documents from the later period, strengthen the recognition of reputation of the trade mark WUNDERBAUM IR-0579396. The PPO decided that both trade marks are similar in visual, aural and conceptual aspects. The PPO noted that the market presence and existence of a trade mark which consumers associate with reputation of another sign, harm the interest of the owner. S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek filed a complaint against this decision.


The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 2 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 334/11 dismissed it. The Court agreed with the the assessment of the PPO, and repeated that an entrepreneur, who for the goods of the same type, chooses a sign that is similar to a trade mark with earlier priority, given that there is an infinite number of signs to be selected, acts at its own risk. S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek brought a cassation comaplaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 10 July 2012 case file II GSK 2324/11 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The Court held that the important drawback of the contested judgment and the decision of the PPO was the assumption on the similarity of the opposed trade marks that was based on the mere fact of the use in their visual aspect, a form of tree, without trying to examine whether the different presentation, including the type and shape of the tree, used in these signs, allowed for the adoption of the view that there exists the similarity of the signs. As a result, the Polish Patent Office, followed by the VAC, accepted the monopoly (exclusiveness) of the company to use very idea of ​​the tree element in its trade mark. The SAC recommended that the VAC should also take a stand on the consequences of the fact that S&S Smiczek & Smiczek Hanna Smiczek used its trade mark for a considerable period of time from 2002. After almost 5 years, Julius Sämann Ltd. initiated a civil action against the S&A. The civil proceedings with regard to trade mark infringement ended before the Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 October 2009 case file V CSK 102/09. The Supreme Court dismissing a cassation appeal filed by Julius Sämann Ltd., based on the argument that long-standing and undisturbed use of the sign in question, in connection with the principle venire contra factum proprium, according to which, if the party continued at a specific practice, it can not rely on its illegality, if other entity accepted such practice in good faith and it could suffer injury as a result of the changes. The application of this rule would come into play especially in a situation, if after the reexamination of evidence, the similarity of opposed signs has been established, and there was not any proof of bad faith on S&S side. The argument that there was bad faith requires evidence and proof, because good faith is presumed. Whether, in connection with long-term use, the S&S trade mark has acquired distinctiveness under average conditions of the market, a feature which is required for any sign to be registered, could speak in favor of the principle of venire contra factum proprium. In addition, marking the goods produced by S&S with its own trade mark, which are the goods of the same kind as products of Julius Sämann Ltd., undoubtedly positively affected the overall demand for such goods on the marker. Therefore, the invalidation of S&S trade mark in situation of its use in good faith, could easily lead to the acquisition of the customers of S&S by Julius Sämann Ltd., without incurring the costs which were attended by S&S in the promotion of the sign, The Court found it difficult to accept. The SAC also held that it should be borne in mind that the right of protection for a trade mark, as every object in the closed list (numerus clasus) of property rights, is admittedly an absolute personal right effective against all (erga omnes), however, this right is not subject to absolute protection. In the light of the general principles for the exercise of property rights as defined in the Polish Civil Code, the boundaries of this right are defined in the Acts and the rules of social coexistence. The Polish Industrial Property Law also refers to these rules. For these reasons, the circumstances giving rise to the allegation of the infringement of the principle of venire contra factum proprium, are one of the limits to the exercise by the owner of its legitimate socio-economic use of the right of protection that derives from the registration of the trade mark. Thus, the invalidation proceedings started against the trade mark Forest Fresh R-183901, in violation of the above mentioned principle, may be considered as the abuse of the right of protection for a trade mark by the proprietor of such a right, that is not entitled to the protection.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 16/12

May 29th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK S.A. requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the figurative 3D trade mark WISENT VODKA PŁ 1764 DISTILLED & BOTTLED IN POLMOS LANCUT POLAND R-191793 owned by Fabryka Wódek POLMOS ŁAŃCUT S.A. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK is the owner of the figurative trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081 and the 3D trade mark R-85811 depicting a bottle with a blade of grass inside, that were registered with the earlier priority. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK argued that there exists the risk of misleading the public because of the similarity of trade marks. The similarity is based on the distinctive element – a blade of grass, that is the distinguishing element of Żubrówka bottle, which leads to the fact that consumers associate the brand with these trade marks. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK provided evidence that Żubrówka is one of the most popular vodka brands on the Polish market, as well as studies on the presence of Żubrówka brand in the market, materials on advertising campaigns, a research on consumer choices in buying of vodkas. The Company also argued that “a blade in a bottle” was commonly associated with Polmos alcohol trade marks in 1999, when the trade mark portfolio was divided between different companies. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed the reputation of the trade marks R-46050, R-62081, R-80991, R-85811 and R-125 911, the same as the reputation of Żubrówka vodka trade marks that were acquired by the company.


POLMOS ŁANCUT argued that the motifs of the wisent and a grass blade will not change the overall assessment of the compared trade marks, and as such, are associated with this type of vodka. In particular, the grass – Hierochloe odorata, which is necessary for the production of this kind of flavoured vodka. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT noted that the appropriation of these elements in favor of one company would not be justified, because it would limit the freedom of the activities of other competing entrepreneurs. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT provided examples of rights of protection for trade marks containing elements such as leaves and fruit of the rowan, drawings of a coconut or cherry, which are the signs used to mark of products in Class 33.


The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request. The PPO agreed that mentioned trade marks are reputed, but they were not similar. The PPO also noted that in the case of trade marks for alcoholic beverages, the consumer’s attention is directed primarily at the label and its contents, as part of communicating the essential information about the brand, type and manufacturer of purchased product, and only then – on the other elements, such as the shape of the bottle or its contents. The PPO decided that POLMOS ŁAŃCUT did not derive any benefits from the reputation the earlier marks. POLMOS ŁAŃCUT carefully created its trade mark in order to fundamentally distinguish it from earlier signs owned by POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. The only common associations that the compared signs raise come down to the fact that they serve to mark the same kind of vodka. CEDC INTERNATIONAL Sp. z o.o., the successor of POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 3 April 2012 case file VI SA/Wa 16/12 dismissed it. The Court held that the decision of the PPO did not violate the law in force or the methodology for comparison of trade marks. This judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1242/11

March 26th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 23 March 2008, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word-figurative 3D trade mark PŁ 1764 R-205770, that was applied for by the Polish company Fabryka Wódek POLMOS ŁAŃCUT S.A, for goods in Class 33 such as vodka. The trade mark represents a glass bottle with a blade of grass put inside, and the crest on the bottle.


POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK S.A., the company that was the owner of the word-figurative trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081, registered with the earlier priority of 30 August 1985, for goods in Class 33, filed a notice of opposition to the decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed similarity of signs and identicality of goods. The Company argued that a blade of grass identifies its product’s image, and the long-term presence on the market caused that the trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081 created the belief of the recipients of this type of goods, that the alcoholic product with a grass motif comes from POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. The Company also claimed that its trade mark is the reputed one, and provided rich evidence material including certificates of quality and market position of vodka sold in bottles with a blade of grass, market research results and reports confirming a strong position of trade marks owned by POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, as well as articles published in specialized trade magazines. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK claimed that POLMOS ŁAŃCUT acted in bad faith because its strategy and intention was to create and to file for the right of protection for a product that would look like the brand of “Żubrówka” vodka, by giving it a full set of protected characteristics of the trade mark POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA R-62081, and this situation happened long before the filing date of the questioned sign.


The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office dismissed the request and decided that the comparision of POLMOS ŻUBRÓWKA BISON BRAND VODKA and PŁ 1764 trade marks gave no similarities. The blade of grass inside a bottle may give potential customers certain associations that it is a vodka based on wisent grass. The PPO relied on the provisions of § 3 of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of 25 January 2007 on the definition of requirements for certain spirit drinks with geographical indications relating to the Polish territory, which specifies requirements for a spirit drink “Herbal Vodka from the North Podlasie Lowland aromatised with an extract of visent grass. The PPO has decided that the vodka producers could use the trade marks containing a blade of grass to indicate the type of vodka. The PPO ruled that these signs are examples of commonly used vodka bottles that were sold in the 80s and 90s of the last century. Such bottles are also present in considerable numbers in the Polish market. Thus, these signs per se do not possess distinctive characteristics. The Adjudicative Board noted that legal commentators emphasizes that the packaging of a product is now deemed as a “silent salesman”, and its appearance affects decisions of customers. A distinctive and visually appealing packaging may cause the client to choose the particular product. The PPO cited K. Jasińska, Naśladownictwo opakowań produktów markowych w świetle prawa własności intelektualnej (in English: Imitation of packagings of branded products in the light of intellectual property rights), Warszawa 2010. The PPO found these arguments relevant to the package created by POLMOS ŁAŃCUT which, in PPO’s opinion differs from other packages available on the market. POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 August 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1242/11 repealed the contested decision and ruled it unenforceable. The VAC decided that the analysis of similarity between the signs including its reputation, in this case, was not exhaustive. The PPO did not consider the dominant elements that draw the attention of the buyer. Although PPO stated that the compared trade marks are 3D signs, but the examination of these elements was reduced to comparison of packages only, i.e. bottles. Although, the PPO stated that as a principle, the visual aspect of a 3D sign, is the shape of package and its content, but these two issues (the shape and contents) were separated in the analysis carried out in this case. The Court found that the long time existence of the characteristic element of 3D signs owned by Polmos Bialystok that were intended for designating vodka products and alcoholic beverages – a blade of grass placed in a simple, transparent bottle, as a whole can easily sink into the minds of customers and build the strength that distinguishes this kind of packagings. The Court pointed out that POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK provided evidence that the original żubrówka can be recognized by a wisent grass blade in the bottle. This would mean that for consumers, contrary to the assessment of the PPO, this 3D element constitutes the dominant part of the trade mark, and it can also influence the perception of the trade mark reputation and the need for protection against dilution. The VAC noted that this case involved more than 20-year presence in the market of a bottle with a grass inside, that was associated with POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK. However, in situation, when the package is transparent, placing a characteristic element inside of the packaging, determines distinctiveness of the whole sign, e.g. two similar bottles. The distinctive 3D form – a blade of grass in the bottle increases the message of each of the word trade marks, brings more originality to signs that are protected for over 20 years. There was no doubt that the floating grass in the bottle is the original message that distinguishes the goods of POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, and is attributed to the origin of goods produced by this particular company. It was impossible to overlook the fact that consumers are seeing a bottle with a characteristic blade of grass, that is associated by them not only with visent vodka, but they also have a guarantee that this is the original product whose reputation was proved by complex evidence. This means that customers choose a product, guided by the attractiveness of its form, because they “see” in this product a trade mark that originates from POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK, whose quality is known to them. The fact is that all signs have a distinctive element. The Polish Patent Office erred by not attaching any importance to it, despite the fact that POLMOS BIAŁYSTOK was the first company that introduced to market a product with such a distinctive element: a long blade of visent grass.

See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2038/09“.

Trade mark law, case IV CSK 393/10

October 5th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Hochland Reich Summer & Co. KG owns a three-dimensional trade mark IR-736770 in Poland, and Hochland AG is the owner of the right in registration of an industrial design Rp-5337. The 3D trade mark is not used in the clear registered form, but is marketed as a product package of ALMETTE cheese, with additional verbal and figurative elements. Both Hochland AG and Hochland Reich, Summer & Co. KG, together with Hochland Polska sued the Polish dairy cooperatives in Piątnica, because it has used the packaging for cheese, on which a graphic of a wooden pail that was similar to Hochland’s trade mark and design, was placed.


The District Court in Białystok in its judgment of 13 October 2009 case file VII GC 49/07 dismissed the suit and refused to recognize the trade mark as a reputed one. However, the Court agreed with the opinion issued by the expert witness that a clean pail, without any identifiers, stands out positively in comparison to other packagings, and by its distinctive shape is strongly associated with the Almette brand. The District Court agreed with Piątnica that this trade mark was not used in trade in its registered form, and that Hochland did not prove that the use of cup-like pail brings Piątnica unfair advantage or is detrimental to the distinctive character of Hochland’s trade mark, which is a prerequisite to the protection of reputed/renown trade marks. The Appellate Court in Białystok in its judgment of 26 February 2010 upheld these findings except the costs and the issue of trade mark use. Hochland filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Court in its judgdment of 10 February 2011 case IV CSK 393/10 found that the Appellate Court decided that the expert’s opinion had no probative value because of the unrepresentative range of research on which it was based, and as a result, the Court found that Hochland failed to prove that its trade mark is a distinctive sign, with reputation. The Appellate Court spoke on the inadequacies of the expert opinion only in the justification of the judgment, and not during the proceedings, which precluded Hochland from filing proper evidence. The Supreme Court ruled that renowned trade marks enjoy special protection – wider than the other trade marks, i.e., even if there is less similarity between trade marks or the goods. In the case of reputed signs, the risk of confusion or the likelihood of confusion is not required. The association with the earlier renowned sign is a sufficient condition. The Court noted that the Polish Industrial Property Law does not provide any definition of reputable trade mark, but only points to the specific conditions of protection. The Supreme Court emphasized that the definitions provided in the legal commentaries, as well as in the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU and Polish courts, differ in this respect. The Court noted that a reputable trade mark is recognized by a significant part of relevant public. The Polish legal commentators argue that such a sign must be known at least by 25 percent of relevant public, and if the percentage exceeded 50 percent, the reputation is always proved. The Supreme Court also noted that the protection of a reputable trade mark does not require the owner to prove that the use of a similar trade mark has brought its user unfair advantage or was detrimental to the distinctive character or the reputation of the earlier mark. A mere possibility of obtaining unfair advantage by the infringer or the very possibility of harmful effects to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trade mark, is a sufficient condition. Therefore, these conditions have normative and hypothetical nature. The Supreme Court held that the Appellate Court erred in the examination of the opinion of another expert witness, who showed that the use of the image of a wooden pail on the packaging of cheese, in the assessment of 69% of consumers may affect their decision on the purchase of goods, and therefore it could potentially influence the purchase of the goods produced by the defendant in its packagings. This circumstance was important for assessing whether the use by the defendant of Hochland’s trade mark could bring Piątnica unfair advantage at the expense of the owner of the trade mark, who first used the sign and incurred substantial costs for its promotions within a few years.

The Appeallate Court in Białystok in its judgment of 7 July 2011 case file I ACa 305/11 was bound by the decision issued by the Supreme Court. The Court pointed out that according to the opinion of Grzegorz Urbanek, who was appointed as an expert witness, the wooden pail is associated to the Almette brand in the perception of most respondents. Both the opinion and attached results showed that even a same wooden pail without and with identifiers has the same effect, i.e. the half of the respondents, because of the packaging, was willing to buy the Almette cheese, and not other cheese of the same type but in the same packagings. Therefore, the Appellate Court prohibited Piątnica to use in the course of trade of a figurative sign representing a wooden pail with a handle, on the packaging of its cheese products. Piatnica still uses the packaging for its cheese, which is similar to a wooden pail. The dairy cooperatives replaced the image from the packaging with the milk-churn with pouring milk.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 538/11

July 9th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is the continuation of the story described in “Trade mark law, case Sp. 457/08“. Unilever filed a complaint against the decision of the Polish Patent Office in which the PPO decided on the lapse of the right or protection of 3D trade mark R-134678 because of its non-use in the form in which the trade mark has been registered.


The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 22 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 538/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable. However, the Court did not even consider the arguments submitted by the parties. The decision was overturned because of the procedural issues. One of the members of the Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office who was involved in taking the questioned decision did not sign it and later on she retired, therefore, the PPO was not able to obtain her signature. An administrative decision should include at least the name/designation of authority, the addressee of the decision, the conclusion and a signature of the person entitled to issue an administrative decision. If the document lacks a signature, it is not an administrative decision but a draft of such a decision. See also “Procedural law, case IV SA/Po 304/10“. Unilever’s case returns to the PPO where it will be decided on again.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 206/06

April 25th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 16 July 1996, the Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the figurative trade mark DVORAK IR-639197. On 27 August 2003, the PPO upheld its decision and ruled that the sign in question is similar to two figurative trade marks R-79913 and R-80064 that were registered with an earlier priority for POLMOS S.A., and it violates the rights of third party, by using elements that are incorporated in earlier registered industrial designs Rp-1 and Rp-2 that are also owned by POLMOS.


The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 January 2007 case file II GSK 206/06 held that the registration of a trade mark whose description largely overlaps with the description of the industrial design that was previously registered to another company, without its permission, is a violation of the rights from the registration of industrial designs and meet the grounds for refusal of registration of the mark because it infringes the personal or economic rights of third parties. See also “Polish regulations on industrial designs” and “Polish case law on industrial designs“.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 457/08

February 21st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the registration of the industrial design “bottle with cap” Rp-2543 owned by Zakład Produkcj Opakowań Rosiński i S-ka sp.j. The request for invalidation was filed by Unilever, which claimed that the design infringes on its 3D trade mark R-134678. This 3D trade mark has the form of a bottle for liquids and it was registered on 20 March 2002 (with a priority of 29 January 1999) for goods in Classes 03 and 05 such as detergents, preparations and substances all for laundry use, fabric conditioning preparations, bleaching preparations, cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations, soaps, deodorants for personal use, hand washes disinfectants, sanitary preparations, preparations for destroying vermin, insects and noxious animals, fungicides, germicides, bactericides, parasiticides, algicides, insecticides, weedkillers, deodorants, other than for personal use, air freshening preparations, insect repellents. The decision of the PPO was uphold by the Voivodeship Administrative Court. Rosiński filed a cassation complaint and the Supreme Administrative Court agreed with the Polish company and returned this case for reconsideration. The PPO will again decide on the invalidation of the industrial design in question.


Meanwhile, during the battle over the industrial design, Rosiński requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the lapse of the right of protection to 3D trade mark R-134678.

Rosinski claimed that the 3D mark in question must be treated, as the so-called weak sign. A bottle as such, is not, remarkably original shape significantly different from other packaging that are available on the Polish market for liquid toilet cleaners. Rosinski emphasized that the registered form of a trade mark significantly differs from the form that is actually used. Only the label, take than 50% of the bottle, and it is insignificant part of a packaging, that attracts attention of the buyer. Rosinski also noted that Unilever cannot argue and prove that the use of the mark in the form without additional elements is genuine use if the actually used a form of a registered trade mark (with labels) was subject to a separate registration (word-figurative trade mark Domestos SPRING FRESH THICK DISINFECTING CLEANER KILLS ALL KNOWN GERMS R-155952). Rosiński added that while the request does not seek to challenge the general idea of registrability of 3 dimensional trade marks such as the shapes of packages. However, such registration has its consequences. While, Unilever was allowed to register its bottle, and as a rule all the other manufacturers are allowed to do, these are weak signs, because such registration does not break the idea of a bottle for fluids.


Unilever argued that Rosiński has no legal interest (locus standi) in requesting the lapse and presented a series of evidence on the genuine use of its 3D trade mark. The evidence included market research of 2009 on the knowledge of the DOMESTOS bottle shape amongst consumers, annual (1999-2000) spendings on television advertising of Domestos, black and white and color prints of television commercials, CD with TV ads recorded on it, color printings of press advertisements, series of judgments issued by French and German courts that were consistent with Unilever’s arguments.


The Adjudicative Board of the PPO composed of five members (usually the board decides a case in a panel composed of the chairman and two members of a board, but five members’ board may be appointed for hearing complicated cases) in its decision of 20 December 2010 case file Sp. 457/08 ruled on the lapse of the right or protection because of non-use in the form in which the trade mark has been registered. The PPO agreed that Rosiński presented clear evidences on locus standi. All legal actions initiated by Unilever were directed against Rosiński’s freedom of business activity and this justified the request to the PPO to decide on the lapse. The PPO held that all submitted materials do not themselves constitute evidence of the genuine use of a bottle with a red cap without a label. Unilever did not show the place and time, extent and nature of use of its trade mark based on specific and objective evidence. The PPO noted that Unilever is the holder of other trade marks that have the same shape, especially word-figurative trade mark R-155952 and R-107207, IR-787372 and IR-798868 and according to the case-law, if there is a registered form of the trade mark with a label and it is genuinely used, then one cannot argue about the genuine use of another registered trade mark that lacks these additional elements. The PPO also ruled that evidence in the form of private public opinion research was dated on 2005 and did not constitute direct evidence of the genuine use of a green bottle with red cap but rather it tried to prove the renown of another trade mark with a label. Also, according to the case-law of the Polish Supreme Administrative Court, the reputation of a trade mark does not preclude the issuance of a decision on the lapse of this trade mark. The PPO ruled that frames from the TV ads and print ads were poor quality and were not in any way dated, It was also not proven whether the TV ads were aired in Poland. There has not also been proved that these ads were even broadcasted. As regards the print ads there were not provided titles of newspapers that the ads appeared nor numbers or dates of editions, and often other bottles of Domestos product appeared in these materials. Judgments of foreign courts that were submitted in this case are not very important considering that the law under which they were issued is not valid and binging in the Republic of Poland and each case before the PPO is examined individually based on specific facts of the particular situation. Also it was difficult for the PPO to consider these decisions to be persuasive, becasue the 3D sign must retain its individual character and it needs to designate the origin of goods and in this case Unilever had other trade marks of the same shape.

Therefore, in the opinion of the Polish Patent Office, Unilever has not produced evidence of the genuine use of the 3D trade mark R-134678 on the Polish territory during an uninterrupted period of five years after the date of the decision to grant a right of protection. This decision is not final yet. A complaint may be filed to the administrative court. HT goes to Grzegorz Pacek.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1099/10

October 20th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company Polski Koncern Naftowy ORLEN S.A. applied for the right of protection for word-figurative trade mark “BIG energy drink” Z-336460 for goods in Classes 06, 16, 32, 35, 43.


The Polish Patent Office issued a decision refusing to grant the protection in part of goods in Class 32 such as energy drinks, juices and juice drinks, carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water, drinks other than alcohol, syrups, concentrates for the preparation of drinks, sports drinks, nectars, beer and in part of services in Class 35 such as retail and wholesale sale services of energy drinks, juices and juice drinks, mineral water, alcoholic drinks, syrups, concentrates in the preparation of drinks, sports drinks. The PPO found also a conflicting CTM “BIG ENERGY” No. 002135812 registered for goods such as non-alcoholic beverages, fruit drinks, fruit juices and fruit nectars, bases and essences (included in class 32) for making the aforesaid beverages. ORLEN filed a complaint against this decision claiming that the refusal was based solely on the likelihood and hypothetical clues, not actual evidence of a convergence of signs and the resulting collision. There was also no presence of the product bearing the opposed trade mark on the Polish territory.


The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 30 August 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1099/10 annulled the contested decision. The VAC ruled the relationship between the petrol stations retail networks and certain “additional products”, bearing their trademark, is becoming ever closer. In such situation it significantly reduces the risk of confusion – the risk of misleading the public, which includes in particular the risk of associating the trademark with an erlier trade mark. The consumer begins to associate certain product (e.g., energy drink), not only with a specific sign, but also with a specific network of petrol stations, in which the drink will be available. The judgment is not final.

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, case VI SA/Wa 2127/09

September 10th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company AFLOFARM Fabryka Leków Sp. z o.o. applied for the word-figurative trade mark “tabletki na uspokojenie Aflofarm” (in English: Aflofarm tablets for calming down) Z-298475 for goods in classes 03, 05 and 44. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection in part of the goods in class 5 covering dietetic substances for medical use, food for babies. The PPO held that the right of protection shall not be granted for a sign that misleads the public as to the nature and properties of the good. Such misleading information is a sign that may cause false image of the average buyer as to the nature of the product, its quality or properties. The assesment of content of a signs is made by him or her from the perspective of the average consumer. The interest of the buyers requires the assumption that the sign is misleading, once a small group of consumers may be misled as to the characteristics of the goods or services, since these characteristics may affect the decision taken, in relation to those goods or services. Under such assumption, the assessment cannot be affected by anything outside the relationship sign – the goods with the reasonable buyer’s idea on such relationship. It follows that the sign “tabletki na uspokojenie Aflofarm” on the goods listed in class 5 should be considered as misleading the buyers as to the nature, purpose, or functional characteristics of these goods.


AFLOFARM argued, that it’s not true that the buyer/consumer “is left alone” with a sign and a product bearing the questioned trade mark. These products are only available in pharmacies and are issued only by a professional that is a pharmacist. Thus it excludes the confusion of the average consumer as to whether he or she has bought the wrong product.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 March 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 2127/09 agreed with AFLOFARM’s arguments and reversed the contested decision. The Court also noticed that “tabletki na uspokojenie Aflofarm” trade mark was applied for dietary agents/means for medical use, rather than dietary substances for medical purposes. For this reason, the Court held that the goods that are marked with a “tabletki na uspokojenie Aflofarm” trade mark will not cause consumers’ confusion since products of such indications or effectiveness can be classified differently, depending on their registration or application.

Trade mark law, case V CSK 293/09

September 2nd, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polish company Technopol sp. z o.o. succeeded to register in the Polish Patent Office over a hundred word and word-figurative trade marks in the form of Arabic numeral “100” and its multiples (200, 300, etc.) together with the word “Panoramicznych” or “Panoram”. Technopol was sued by another Polish entrepreneur, Roman Oraczewski who publishes crossword magazines under such titles as “222 Panoramiczne”, “333 Panoramiczne”, “500 Krzyżówek”, “300 Krzyżówek z Uśmiechem”, “300 Krzyżówek Panorama Rozrywki”. Mr Oraczewski claimed protection to its press titles and Technopol filed counter claims based on Article 10 of the Polish Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments.

Article 10.1. Such indication of products or services or its lack, which may mislead customers in relation to the origin, quantity, quality, components, manufacturing process, usefulness, possible application, repair, maintenance and another significant features of products or services as well as concealing the risks connected with their use, shall be the act of unfair competition.
2. Releasing for free circulation products in the packing which may cause effects referred to in section 1 above shall be the act of unfair competition, unless the use of such packing is justified by technical reasons.

Technopol requested the court to issue preliminary injuction ordering Mr Oraczewski to cease the sale and introduction to the market of all his magazines bearing titles that are identical or similar to Technopol’s trade marks. The Court granted the injunctive relief. Mr. Oraczewski did not agree with such order and after couple of years this case ended in a final dismissal of the application for preliminary injunction. Mr. Oraczewski sued Technopol for the compensation for the loss incurred due to the enforcement of the injunction. He claimed over 67.000.000 PLN loss. According to Article 746 §1 of the Civil Proceedings Code – CPC – (in Polish: Kodeks Postępowania Cywilnego) of 17 November 1964, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 43, item 296, with subsequent amendments, when a preliminary injunction has been granted and the plaintiff fails to file the principal claim, withdraws it, the claim fails for procedural reasons, or is dismissed as unfounded, the defendant may demand compensation for the loss incurred due to the enforcement of the injunction. The claim expires if it is not pursued within one year from the moment the loss occured. This provision makes a plaintiff who obtained a preliminary injunction but ultimately failed with its principal claim liable towards the defendant for the loss caused by the injunction.


The Supreme Court in its judgment of 25 February 2010 case file V CSK 293/09 held that the liability provided under Article 746 § 1 of the CPC is independent of plaintiff’s fault. However, the Court dismissed Mr Oraczewski complaint because he did not follow the preliminary injunction order.

See also “Trade mark and Press law, VI SA/Wa 2135/08” and “Trade mark law, case V CSK 71/09“.

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

July 21st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its order 17 June 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 370/10 held that if the party did not act properly within a given period of time in court proceedings without its fault, the court may decide on the request, on the restoration of a deadline. The request for restoration shall be filed within the Court, in which the act was to be made within seven days from the time as the cause of transgression ceased. The request for restoration of a deadline to file a complaint must be filed through the court or authority. The restoration of a deadline has unique nature and can only occur if the party convincingly proves of the absence of its guilt. The lack of guilt means a situation in which circumstances that were impossible to overcome and that were independent from the party, have occurred , and these were the reasons that the deadline set by the law was exceeded (see the order of the Supreme Administrative Court of 11 April 2008 case file I OZ 246/08).

In assessing the occurrence of this condition, the Court has to adopt an objective “test of care”, which may be required from everyone duly taking care of its interests. The restoration is therefore not admissible if the party is guilty of even slight negligence. If the party is represented by a professional representative, while assessing the guilt of not preserving a deadline, the representative acts should be considered, adopting an objective test of care, which may be required from a professional legal representative duly caring for the interests of its client, with the reservation that negligence of people, whom such representative employs, burden the representative itself, and therefore do not release the party from the guilt in non-reserving a deadline.

This means that the negligence made by administrative staff in activities necessary to preserve the procedural deadline, which was commissioned by a patent attorney who is a representative of a party, does not justify the restoration of a missed deadline.

Terravita Holding Establishment from Vaduz, Lichtenstein was a party who lost this case. See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 370/10“.

Readability test of pharmaceutical products’ leaflet

June 2nd, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

In the Regulation of the Minster of Health of 26 April 2010 on the leaflet readability test (in Polish: rozporządzenie w sprawie badania czytelności ulotki), Journal of Laws of 18 May 2010, No. 84, item 551, the Polish Minister of Health provided the principles of examination under which the content of the information attached to the pharmaceutical products is understandable.

The readability test of a pharmaceutical product’s leaflet is carried out by the responsible entity (an entrepreneur who applies for or has received the marketing authorization for a medicinal product), or any other person on its behalf, to ensure that a consumer understands the relevant information contained in this leaflet and will be able to correctly apply the medicinal product. The readability test should be conducted with the following minimum requirements:
– a leaflet should be in the version that will be attached to the packaging of a pharmaceutical product, or its color layout design,
– test participants are those who may use the medicinal product, including those who have difficulty understanding written information.

The test is carried out with ten participants. A positive test result means that for each question, 90% of study participants may find the information on a given leaflet, of which 90% may show their understanding and give the correct answer and to proceed with the medicinal product.

Product labelling, case VI SA / Wa 478/10

May 29th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 19 May 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 478/10 ruled that the labeling of food products must comply with the rules on food labeling. The full identity of the manufacturer should be placed on the product packaging and a P.O. Box does not identify the manufacturer and cannot be regarded as its address.

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“.

Industrial design law, case VI SA/Wa 746/09

August 23rd, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office registered the design of a bottle in the form of a contour map of Poland Rp-11003, applied for by Przedsiębiorstwo Wielobranżowe Euro-Kamil Polska sp. z o. o. from Wrocław.


Jacek Andruszkiewicz from Warszawa filed a request for invalidation of this design. Mr Andruszkiewicz argued that the questioned design lacks of novelty. He pointed out to the 3D trade mark registration R-91920 owned by Jacek Andruszkiewicz Jolanta Duch s.c. DAYGLOB Biuro Exportowo-Importowe from 6 October 1995.


The PPO invalidated the right in registration in its decision of 14 January 2009, case file Sp. 555/07. The PPO held that Jacek Andruszkiwicz had a legal interest in seeking the invalidation, as a competitor in the market of bottles. Euro-Kamil filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 22 June 2009, case file VI SA/Wa 746/09 repealed the contested decision and held it unenforceable. The Court ruled that the PPO did not examine if the legal interest was real and sent this case for reconsideration.

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

Trade mark law, case I CSK 96/08

March 20th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

Lindt & Sprüngli requested the Polish court to prohibit Terravita from offering, marketing or storage chocolate products with a characteristic shape of a seated hare, wrapped in metail foil with clearly marked drawings of nose, bandoline, eyes, ears and tail with bow placed on the neck. Lindt also asked the court to stop the defendant using or affixing “Terravita hare” or its image in advertising and commercial documents, and an order that the defendant withdraw the “Terravita hare” from the market, requiring the defendant to destroy all packagings, packaging designs and dies, molds and other devices intended to produce and direct wrapping the “Terravita hare”.

Lindt's hare

The District Court in Warsaw, the Court for the Community Trade Marks and Community Designs (in Polish: Sąd Okręgowy w Warszawie Wydział XXII Sąd Wspólnotowych Znaków Towarowych i Wzorów Przemysłowych) in its judgment of 22 September 2005 dismissed the action. The court held that the conditions set out in article 9(1)(b) of the CTMR were not met. In the court’s opinion “Goldhase”, “Lindt” and “Terravita” signs that appear on the respective products differentiated them significantly and hence there is no risk of consumer’s confusion. The average consumer of chocolate hares does not perceive the origin of the goods only on the basis of the shape of a hare, but also on the basis of other important and distinguishing elements, including the mark placed on the product, the color of the packaging, its price, the trade mark identifying the manufacturer. The average consumer sees the difference in colour of the packaging of chocolate hares, and these were different in this case. Lindt’s packaging of the hare has the color of gold, red and brown, and Terravita’s are in silver. In addition, the District Court indicated that according to article 159a(5) of the CTMR, the defendant has only the right to prohibit the use of a trade mark on the territory of the Republic of Poland.

Terravita's hare

Lindt brought an appeal. The Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 6 July 2006 case file I ACa 616/07 dismissed the case. The Court held that the shape and the colour did not inform about the origin of the goods. The form of a sitting hare, Easter eggs or bells do not have a distinctive characteristic. The court similarly assessed the coloring of the aluminum foil placed on chocolate hares. The colour of silver and gold are typical for chocolate products. In this case, the only distinctive elements of both products were sings “Goldhase Lindt” and “Terravita” and they were dissimilar. Accordingly there was no risk of consumers confusion as regards the orgin of goods.

Lind brought a cassation complaint to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland. The Court, in its judgment of 13 April 2007, case file I CSK 16/07, ordered the Appellate Court to reconsider the case. The Supreme Court has interpreted the EU law, pointing to the need for a comprehensive assessment of similarity of the disputed signs. Only such an assessment would determine whether there is a risk of confusion.

The Court of Appeal, after rehearing the case, changed its judgment in favour of Lindt. The court found that the Golden hare was introduced by Lindt on the Polish market in 1997 (16 pieces), and 240 pieces in 1998. On March 1999, Terravita purchased in Germany the same form as the form used by Lindt and began producing and marketing of chocolate hares. Therefore the disputed hares share the same shape and size. Both are packaged in foil – gold, or silver, both have a ribbon tied to the neck in bow but Terravita’s is printed on the foil and there is no bell. The Court of Appeal stated that the condition for the likelihood of confusion has been met. The court stressed that Lindt’s Gold hare is well known among consumers of chocolate products. Therefore, there was no doubt to believe that Lindt’s hare has a huge recognition among consumers of chocolate products, especially if its presence on the market was established for more than nine years. With regard to the Terravita silver hare the Court of Appeal held that, although the latter figure was produced using the same form as used by the Lindt, and thus both hares are having the same shape and size but additional drawings and elements preclude similarities.

This time, Terravita brought a cassation complaint. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 3 October 2008, case file I CSK 96/08 held that in the circumstances of this case, there is no doubt that disputed hares are not identical and only its shape is the same, since they are manufactured from the same form. However on the foil of both hares, in a prominent place, one may find adequately put signs “Lindt Goldhase” or “Terravita”, which in fact makes the likelihood of consumer confusion practically excluded. The Court cited its earlier case law. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 1 February 2001, case file I CKN 1128/98, published at OSNC 2001, No. 9, item. 136, held that if word-figurative trade marks are used on the market then the word elements of such signs should have been attributed the distinvtice characteristics. The SC in its judgment 8 April 2003, case file IV CKN 22/01, published at OSP 2004, No. 5, item 61, held that in case of word-figurative trade marks the word element has the distinctive characteristics because it determines the ease of assimilation and the perception by the public. The Supreme Court in its judgment of 14 November 2003, case file I CK 176/02 (unpublished) excluded the risk of confusion in a situation where bottles used by the plaintiff and the defendant had the same shape (as in the facts of this case these bottles came from the same form), but were labeled with various word and images elements. In conclusion, the Court held that in the case of two identical products, one of which concerns the Community trade mark, the likelihood of confusion within the meaning of article 9(1)(b) of CTMR does not exist, if the other characteristics of goods, in particular bearing the word or image, allow them to be clearly distinguished.

Trade mark law, case III SA/Wr 499/08

January 30th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Wrocław in its judgment of 28 January 2009 case file III SA/Wr 499/08 held that the powers of sanitary authorities include the power to control of foodstuffs also in terms of their marking and labeling. According to article 120 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 of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments, the trade mark is protected as a whole regardless of its composition. So questioning the legality of a trade mark that was made by the State Sanitary Inspection, with the assumption that part of the label of foodstuff is a registered trademark, lead to an unacceptable invasion of the powers reserved by law for the Polish Patent Office. Indeed, such action of SSI would, in fact, “prohibit” the use of a trade mark, while the State Sanitary Inspection cannot encroach on the powers reserved by law for other state authorites.

Article 120
1. Any sign capable of being represented graphically may be considered as trademark, provided that such signs are capable of distinguishing the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.

2. The following, in particular, may be considered as trademarks within the meaning of paragraph (1): words, designs, ornaments, combinations of colours, the three-dimensional shape of goods or of their packaging, as well as melodies or other acoustic signals.

3. Any references in this Act to:
(i ) trademarks shall also mean service marks,
(ii) goods shall mean, in particular, industrial or handicraft goods, agriculture products or natural products, such as, in particular, waters, minerals, raw materials, as well as, subject to Article 174(3), services,
(iii) counterfeit trademarks shall mean identical trademarks illegally used or trademarks which in the course of trade can not be distinguished from the trademarks registered for the goods covered by the right of protection,
(iv) earlier trademarks shall mean the trademarks applied for registration or registered basing on the earlier priority.

A situation where an entrepreneur has advertised tea, using only, image of cannabis-like leaves cannot be considered as advertising of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. In this case, it was not a promotion of any other substances prohibited by the law because, there was no name of any specific drug or psychotropic substance. Moreover, this issue goes beyond the competence of the State Sanitary Inspection.

The cassation complaint was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 31 May 2010 case file II OSK 832/09.

Industrial design and trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 710/08

November 25th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 10 April 2001, the Polish company Rosinski Andrzej Rosinski Michal Rosinska Joanna Zaklad Produkcji Opakowan Rosinski i S-ka, Sp. J (this is the actual company name – the firm, which consist of names of partnes “Rosinski Andrzej Rosinski Michal Rosinska Joanna”, the name “packages production plant” and the type of legal entity they operate “general/partnership company”) applied for the design registration for bottle with top. On 14 January 2003, the Polish Patent Office has registered the design, Rp-2543.


In 2006, Unilever NV of Holland asked the PPO to annul its decision regarding Rp-2543. Unilever based its claims on the provisions of Article 117(2) 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 on 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No. 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

A finding that the exploitation of the industrial design infringes third parties’ personal or author’s economic rights will also constitute a ground for invalidation of the right in registration.

Unilever’s legitimate interest to request the invalidation was based the earlier 3D trade mark registration, R-134678, which was granted by the PPO in a decision of 28 January 1999. However, the problem with applying article 117(2) lays in the rules of Polish administrative procedure. The PPO is not allowed to decide if third parties rights are infringed.


The PPO in its decision of 19 October 2007, act signature Sp. 187/06 invalidated the contested design. The Office recognized the similarity between the trade mark and the design based on arguments presented by Unilever’s patent attorney. The Polish company appealed. Its representative called into question the correctness of PPO’s decision in applying provisions of article 117(2). In his opinion the infringement issue should be decided by the civil court, not the administrative body which the Polish Patent Office is. However, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 21 November 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 710/08 did not agree with the Polish company arguments. In Court’s opinion the PPO has been given the opportunity to assess similarities between a registered trade mark and a design. PPO’s conclusions that there exist a significant similarity may entitle the Office to decide with regard to the infringement of third parties rights.

This judgment is not yet final. A cassation complaint was filed to the Supreme Administrative Court. It will clarify the interpretation of Article 117(2) of the IPL. See “Industrial design and trade mark law, case II GSK 481/09“.

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

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 693/06

January 24th, 2007, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 November 2006 case file VI SA/Wa 693/06 held that a dimensional trade mark (3D), which is an exact reproduction of the packaging is not distinctive, and thus cannot be registered.


This case concerned the refusal to grant the right of protection for International trade mark IR-405177 owned by Ferrero, S.p. A. from Alba.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 349/05

March 23rd, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

Imperial Tobacco requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for “KIERY A K D mocne” R-131390 registered for GALLAHER POLSKA Sp.z o.o., for goods in Class 34 such as cigarettes.


Imperial Tobacco is the owner of the right of protection for “M mocne” R-68755 trade mark registered for goods in Clss 34 such as cigarettes. The PPO dismissed the request and explained that the Trade Marks Act contains no provisions on the so-called disclamation rule which is based on identifying which elements that are part of a registered trade mark should not be protected and deemed as informational sings/elements. The word “mocne” (in English: “strong”) refers to the characteristics (properties) of cigarettes, which is associated with the fact that strong cigarette contains more tar and nicotine than light cigarette. The M-Mocne brand due to the presence in the market for several decades acquired the status of well-known trade mark among smokers, which according to the assesment of the Polish Patent Office does not change the fact that “mocne” sign is deemed as the informational term. Imperial Tobacco filed a complaint against this decision.


The Voivodeship Administrative court in warsaw in its judgment of 20 January 2005 case file VI SA/Wa 333/04 agreed with the PPO and dismissed the complaint. The VAC held that it is wrong assumption that the use of the registered word-figurative trade mark “M mocne”, resulted in obtaining the status of well-known trade mark of one of its elements, i.e. “mocne” word. Imperial Tobacco filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 26 January 2006 case file II GSK 349/05 held that the word “mocne” lacks sufficient distinctiveness. Therefore, the right to use this term (as well as “lekkie”) have all manufacturers of tobacco/cigarettes. This does not affect the personal or property rights, because the word is not property. Moreover, the Court noted the term “mocne” can never acquire distinctive character and all the time should be considered as an informational indication.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1705/05

March 11th, 2006, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 2 March 2006, case file VI SA/Wa 1705/05 decided on trade dress and 3D trade mark TERRAVITA R-142204 owned by Terravita Holding Establishment. The Court ruled that according to the provisions of Article 30 of the Act on 31 January 1985 on Trade marks (Journal of Laws No 5, item 17 with subsequent amendments), a legal interest to demand the invalidation of a trademark registration is afforded to an entity which derives such right from a competence to fill for trade mark registration, use of a trade mark, or to demand the invalidation of a trade mark registration for the sake of the collision with its own rights.


The Court also noted that there is a presumption of good faith and bad faith, and it has to be proven. There is an assumption that someone is acting in bad faith if he or she has the awareness of discrepancy of the situation with the law or as a result of his or her negligence in knowledge about the legal situation. In accordance with the well established doctrine, practice and case law, a trade mark according to Article 7 and Article 9(1) pt 1 and 2 of the TMA, should be examined as a whole. It is not allowed to test only one element of the complex sign, for instance the figurative element, without taking into the consideration of the word elements of the complex sign, or doing it insufficiently. Therefore, if the Polish Patent Office examines individual elements of a sign, it should in next, put them together and draw the final conclusions. See also “Trade mark law, case II GSK 247/06“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 92/05

November 11th, 2005, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 29 June 2005 case file II GSK 92/05 held that a sign that is depicted as confectionery, or a cookie called delicja (Jaffa cake) cannot be registered as a trade mark, because it only shows and serve as a shape of a product. The Polish Patent Office has granted the right of protection for the 3D trade mark R-116211. The applied sign was described as a flat round cookie, the lower portion being the disc with rounded edges is colored in pale yellow, the top of the cake has circular elevations of smaller diameter, the surface of which is convex, rectangular grid, and the entire upper surface of the cake is in dark chocolate brown. Five different Polish companies have requested the PPO to invalidate the right of protection, and argued that it was applied contrary to Polish and European regulations. The PPO invalidated the right in question. The owner, LU POLSKA Spółka Akcyjna, filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administratie Court in its judgment of 18 October 2004 case file II SA 3199/03 dismissed it. LU POLSKA filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the ability of distinguishing the goods or services (the so-called “abstract ability to distinguish” goods or services) must be distinguished from the “sufficient distinctiveness” of an applied trade mark. Only after finding that a given sign is capable to serve as a trademark, its distinctive ability in concreto is subject to examination. A sign cannot be identified with the product itself. The Court ruled that the interpretation of Articles 4 and 7 of the old Polish Act of 31 January 1985 on Trade Marks – TMA – (in Polish: Ustawa o znakach towarowych), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 5, item 15, with subsequent amendments, should be made in accordance with the provisions of Article 3(1)(e) of the First Directive 89/104. Accordingly, signs which consist exclusively of the shape which results from the nature of the goods themselves shall not be registered or if registered shall be liable to be declared invalid. This regulation should be interpreted in the manner that signs which consist exclusively of the shape of goods shall not be registered if it is proven that basic, functional features of such shape are assigned only to technical characteristics.


The contradictions with the law or rules of social coexistence, that are the condition of inadmissibility to register a trade mark, must not only connect directly to the sign itself, but also to the circumstances surrounding the registration of the mark if they contain elements contrary to law or the rules of social coexistence. In addition, the violation of other laws than those included in the TMA should be considered as the registration contrary to law. The registration of a 3D trade mark whose sole purpose is to monopolize the market of a given product and thus deprive the competitors of the freedom of establishment as regards the possibility of further production of the same product, is violation of the provisions of the law.