Archive for: similarity of goods

Trade mark law, case Sp. 207/10

May 21st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 27 May 2008, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trade mark FORTUNA WARZYWNA KAROTKA STANOWCZA Z TABASCO I KOLENDRĄ R-209338. This sign was applied for by the Polish company Agros Nova sp. z o.o. from Warsaw for goods in class 32 such as juices, nectars and vegetable beverages, multi-vegetable nectars and vegetable beverages with the addition of micro and/or macroelements and/or vitamins and/or substance supporting the metabolic processes and/or flavorings, spices and herbs, sports and energy drinks, products for production of beverages: extracts, essences and concentrates, seasonings, and syrups, instant drinks.

Mc Ilhenny Company filed a request for invalidation of Agros’ trade mark. Mc Ilhenny is the owner of the word trade mark TABASCO R-51500 registered with the earlier priority of 24 March 1973, in class 30 for pepper sauce.

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 11 May 2011 case no. Sp. 207/10 dismissed the request. The PPO ruled that there is no likelihood of confusion between both trade marks because Agros’ trade mark is a label with rich graphics, where the words “karotka” and “fortuna” are located in a central position, and the word “Tabasco” is placed below and it’s not a dominant element of the whole sign. It only appears at the bottom of the label, and is written in a small font. This decision is not final yet. A complaint can be brought to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1860/10

April 21st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 20 December 2006, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for the word trade mark O’LEARY R-180416 applied for by Piotr Kasprzycki PPH Eveline Cosmetics from Lesznowola for goods in Class 03 such as skin, hair and body care products for children, women and men, mascaras, creams, lotions, shampoos, soaps, gels baths, creams and gels, cosmetics, perfumery, and cleansing tissues and goods in Class 05 such as medicinal cosmetics.

R-65340

French company L’OREAL Societe Anonyme filed a request for invalidation. L’Oreal owns the word trade mark L’OREAL R-42203 registered with the earlier priority of 5 May 1960 for goods in Class 03 such as perfumery and cosmetics, toilet soaps, lipsticks, products for oral care, hair coloring agents, shampoos. The Company also owns the word-figurative trade mark L’OREAL STUDIO LINE R-65340 registered with the priority of 24 November 1988 for goods in Class 03. The French company argued that its trade marks are well-known and reputed. It presented a survey of consumers in the years 2001-2003, which proved the knowledge of the brand and consumer trust in the products. L’OREAL was the brand that has won numerous awards. The company argued that some of the goods are identical other are similar and raised an argument that the trade mark application was made in bad faith. The company relied on the judgment of the French court, which forbade the company that was created by Piotr Kasprzycki in France, the violations of trade marks and company name of L’Oreal, by the use of the name O’LEARY. L’OREAL also claimed the company created by Mr Kasprzycki was fictitious becuase its capital was 1 euro.

R-151141

O’LEARY argued that its trade Mark Has Irish origins and the average consumer is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect. O’LEARY admitted that L’Oreal is a strong and very distinguishable brand and the consumer who buys these cosmetics will not pay attention to the other cheaper products. O’LEARY noted that since the French court judgment has been appealed, so the case has not been finally decided. In its opinion, the proceedings in France is not relevant in the proceedings before the Polish Patent Office.

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 16 March 2010 case no. Sp. 251/08 invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark O’LEARY. The PPO ruled that O’LEARY is confusingly similar to L’OREAL. Piotr Kasprzycki PPH Eveline Cosmetics filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 April 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1860/10 agreed with the PPO and dismissed the case. The judgment is not final yet. The cassation complaint can be brought before the Supreme Administrative Court.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 259/10

April 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Mariusz Lech Przedsiebiorstwo Produkcyjno-Handlowo-Uslugowe LECH-POL from Lask requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark “lech wódka” R-145285 registered for Fabryka Wódek POLMOS ŁAŃCUT S.A. for goods in class 33 such as alcoholic beverages: vodka. Mariusz Lech argued that the questioned trade mark is confusingly similar to his word-figurative trade mark LECH-POL R-132854 and the word trade mark “mariusz lech” R-113305, both registered for good in class 33 such as alcoholic beverages.

The PPO dismissed the request and noted that Mr Lech’s trade mark were not genuinely used for all goods. In 2007 the PPO decided on the lapse of the protection rights for both trade marks in all goods except wines, this cases went through all instances. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 708/08“. Therefore, the compared goods are different due to existing specialization in the alcohol industry and the awareness of that specialization among potential customers is also important, because the average buyer is aware that the vodka manufacturer does not produce wine, and vice versa. These trade marks may exist on the market without collision. Mariusz Lech filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 October 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 1050/09. LECH-POL decided to file a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 10 February 2011 case file II GSK 259/10 dismissed it. The SAC ruled that the conditions of production of wines and vodka are different. The packagings and sealing of such goods differs and there are different conditions of sale of such products. Vodka in not sold in the wineries, and in case when both types of goods are in a shop, (usually displayed on different shelves in malls), their location is clearly separable. The development of shopping centers and various self-service shops of retail chains, makes the criterion of sales conditions less important when it is used for assessing the similarity of the goods. The Court noted that vodka and wine, because of varying alcohol content, must be treated as different types of alcoholic beverages, which is also reflected in the provisions the Polish Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism of 26 October 1982 and the permits that are granted under this Act for trade and service of alcoholic beverages are issued separately for each kind of beverage from a separate pool of permissions. The Court also ruled that the incidental possibility that the producer of wines and spirits is the same entity does not lead to the conclusion that these beverages are of one type.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1850/10

March 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 18 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1850/10 noted the trade mark law of Western countries has developed the principle that in the event of a conflict between two signs all doubts should be decided in favor of the owner of a trade mark with the earlier priority. This principle is a simple consequence of the belief that the entrepreneur who choose a trade mark that will be used for marking the same type of goods and that is similar to the mark with an earlier priority, is acting at his or her own risk and all uncertainties should be decided against him/her.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 56/10

March 25th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office registered the word trade mark TRIMEGAL R-177593 for Farmaceutyczna Spółdzielnia Pracy GALENA for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceutical preparations. NOVARTIS AG filed a notice of opposition. The Swiss company claimed TRIMEGAL is similar to its trade mark TRILEPTAL IR-0560245 registered for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceuticals. The PPO dismissed it. Novartis decided to file a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 12 August 2009 case file akt VI SA/Wa 581/09 dismissed it, and NOVARTIS filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 18 January 2011 case file II GSK 56/10 held that in the case of the final recipients of pharmaceuticlas that are labeled with TRIMEGAL or TRILEPTAL trade marks it is hard to tell about the existence of likelihood/risk of confusion. The Court noted that it should be remembered that these signs are used for the determination of drugs that are used for different illnesses such as heart disease and epilepsy. Patients who are suffering from such illnesses are deemed according to the SAC as the “aware consumers” of their prescription drugs. Moreover, the so-called “post-sale risk of confusion” can be considered only when the patient with epilepsy, also suffers from heart disease, because only then in his medicine cabinet at home can be found both drugs bearing this two marks in question. The differences between both marks are sufficient to exclude any risk of confusion and to ensure the existence of the two signs on the market without any collision. Therefore, the view that TRIMEGAL is similar to TRILEPTAL in a way that excludes the possibility of distinguishing this two signs, in fact, would limit the possibility to use other trademarks with the informational prefix TRI- (triple).

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2168/10

March 16th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Red Bull GmbH filed a notice of opposition to a final decision of the Polish Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection to the “red dragon” trade mark R-179732 registered for DODONI Roman Górzyński, Marek Górzyński, Marcin Górzyński sp.j for goods in Class 32 such as mineral waters and non-alcoholic beverages. Red Bull claimed that “red dragon” is similar to its RED BULL R-207549, RED BULL ENERGY DRINK IR-0715531 and the CTM RED. Red Bull based its opposition on the reputation of these trade marks. The PPO dismissed the opposition and ruled that the opposed trade marks, despite the identical word element “red”, are different at all levels of perception, i.e., aural, verbal and conceptual, so that they produce a completely different impression on the average customer. These signs also have other verbal elements and the word “red” is present in other trade marks registered for goods in Class 32. In view of significant differences between opposed trade marks that excluded the risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods, the PPO decided that the reputation of Red Bull’s trade marks enjoyed on the Polish market is not relevant for the assessment of the risk of consumers confusion. Red Bull filed a complaint to the administrative court.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 14 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 2168/10 dismissed the complaint. The court agreed with the PPO that the consumer who does not speak English will perceive RED BULL and RED BULL ENERGY DRINK as fanciful trade marks, and “red dragon” composed in part with the fanciful word “red” and in part of the Polish word of some specific meaning (Dragoon – mounted infantry or as a tall, stout, vigorous, sprawling woman) will be perceived differently. The court held that since the opposed trade marks are not similar, therefore the registration of “red dragon” R-179732 will not bring unfair advantage to DODONI or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of Red Bull’s trademarks.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1122/10

February 11th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 25 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1122/10 ruled that a trade mark application and examination case cannot be decided based on general assumptions and in an automatic way, because it is always resolved with regard to its specific conditions and references. The Polish Patent Office is required to conduct proceedings in such a way as to increase the trust of citizens in the State bodies and public awareness and appreciation of the law. According to the mentioned above principles, the PPO is required to precisely explain the circumstances of the case, respond to all claims and allegations and to include both public interest and the interests of the party, in the decision rendered.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1936/10

February 4th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition against the registration of the trademark TARGA R-189862 owned by the Polish company VALVEX S.A.. The request was filed by Aloys F. Dornbracht GmbH & Co. KG. The German company based the opposition proceedings on the CTM TARA no. 827659.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 11 January 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1936/10 ruled that the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods or/and the manufacturer must be examined globally, taking into account all elements relevant. These elements include in particular: the degree of recognition of the earlier trade mark on the market, an association that may occur between that trade mark and the opposed trademark of another entrepreneur, the degree of similarity between the signs and goods and services. The Court agreed with the PPO that the goods covered by both trade marks were similar and of the same kind. These goods were directed mainly to professionals in the field of sanitary installations, construction or architectural design. The VAC found that these consumers were specialists with an above-average degree of product awareness, who purchased the products at issue in specialized points of retail or wholesale. With regard to the remaining consumers (i.e., non-professionals), the Court pointed out that the goods at issue were not likely to be bought impulsively. The Court found that TARGA and TARA were both simple, and easy to read, pronounce and remember. These signs are composed of four or five letters, and the first three letters ‘TAR’ and the last letter ‘A’ are identical. The trademark TARGA contains an additional letter ‘G’. Both marks are short, so the letter ‘G’ will be easily noticed and heard by consumers. The court found that the additional letter ‘G’ would have an impact on the perception of the marks. Where the trademarks concerned are short, one different letter is in general sufficient to exclude similarity.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1650/10

January 24th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office received a request for the conversion of the CTM FOX Petroli S.p.a. application no. 002672533. This sign was applied for the good in Class 4 such as petroleum, industrial oils and greases, lubricants, fuel (including motor spirits). The PPO refused to grant the right of protection because it found similarity between the applied sign and the word trade mark FOX-OIL R-96049 and word-figurative trade mark FOX-OIL R-96843, both registered for goods in Classes 04, 19 and 39 and owned by FOX-OIL I. Olszewska, W. Okoniewski Spółka jawna from Gdańsk. The PPO ruled that the signs share the same word element, and in case of figurative elements, the word FOX has been particularly exposed. FOX Petroli S.p.a. filed a complaint against this decisions.

CTM 002672533

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 December 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1650/10 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the average consumer of a particular type of goods is perceived as a person who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect.

R-96843

The Court confirmed also the consistent opinion that the level of the average consumer’s perception may vary depending on the type of goods or services. The VAC held that the goods belonging to the group of petroleum due to the development of technology (including automotive) are treated as everyday use goods.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1127/10

January 13th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

POSTI S.A. applied for the word-figurative trade mark “POSTI Fitea man HERBATKA WSPOMAGAJĄCA ODCHUDZANIE z owocem z czarnego bzu i anyżem doskonały smak świetny efekt” Z-334117 for foods in Classes 05 and 30. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection. The PPO ruled that there exist similarity between applied sign and the word-figurative trade mark “fittea” R-178995 owned by “BIOFLUID” Spółka Jawna from Górki Małe. POSTI filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-334117

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 November 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1127/10 anulled the decision. The Court ruled that the PPO examined only verbal elements of both signs. The VAC ruled that the main distinguishing element of marked goods or services is, in principle, the word, because the recipient usually remember the sign and the marked product (service) based on the verbal element/s.

R-178995

However, the principle of the dominant meaning of the word elements in the combined trade marks is fully applicable, particularly when figurative and 3D elements have less distinctive character, or are completely devoid of this ability. This judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1126/10

January 12th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

POSTI S.A. applied for the word-figurative trade mark “POSTI Fitea HERBATKA WSPOMAGAJĄCA ODCHUDZANIE Z ANANASEM I CZERWONYM GREJPFRUTEM” Z-334116 for foods in Classes 05 and 30. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection. The PPO ruled that there exist similarity between applied sign and the word-figurative trade mark “fittea” R-178995 owned by “BIOFLUID” Spółka Jawna from Górki Małe. POSTI filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-334116

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 5 November 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1126/10 annulled questioned decisions. The Court ruled that the internal characteristics of the trade mark, including descriptive elements (or lack of such) of the goods and services for which it is registered, the market share of trade mark in question, the intensity and temporal and geographical scope of the use, investments in promotion and advertising, the percentage of relevant recipients, who because of the trade mark are able to identify products or services as originating from a particular company, must be taken into account when establishing the existence (or nonexistence) of recognition of the trade mark with an earlier priority.

R-178995

The Court ruled that the PPO should determine the mentioned above conditions and the outcome will help to assess the risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods which may occur if the protection was granted for the sign in question. The judgment is not yet final.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1124/10

January 11th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company GRAAL S.A. from Wejherowo applied for the word-figurative trade mark ERAFISH Z-340740 for goods in Classes 29 and 31. The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for goods in Class 29. The PPO found that the applied sign is similar to the CTM EvraFish no. 4948618 owned by Stek-Rol. GRAAL filed a complaint against this decision.

Z-340740

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 September 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1124/10 dismissed the case. The Court held the risk of confusion is based on wrong, inaccurate attribution of goods bearing a given trade mark to a right holder by an average consumer. The more distinctive trade mark with the earlier priority is, and the goods or services bearing the marks compared are more similar, the bigger risk of confusion exist. However, when the signs are identical, and the similarity between the goods exists, there is a significant possibility of confusion, or association of both signs, even for professionals. The relationship between a particular product or service and the sign marking it is formed in the minds of buyers.

CTM-004948618.jpg

The Court also noted that the likelihood of misleading consumers as to the origin of products bearing similar trade mark increases with the degree of similarity of the signs. Therefore, the buyer may assume that the owners of such similar signs are in organizational or legal relationship. The existence in the course of trade of a similar trade mark may suggest that the sign is merely a variation of an earlier registered trade mark and comes from the same entity. This was even more dangerous, since both signs are intended to mark the same goods. If the signs are so similar and there are the same goods/services selected, one cannot exclude the confusion among the consumers of those goods because consumers do not always analyze the structure of the mark before selecting the provider of goods or services. GRAAL S.A filed a cassation complaint. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 413/11“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 601/10

December 21st, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company Producent Okien i Drzwi z PVC “OKLAND” Joanna Wilk i Wojciech Wilk Spółka Jawna from Kostomłoty Pierwsze filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection for a word-figurative trade mark Okland R-154904 owned by OKLAND Spółka z o.o. from Rokitki, in regard to the goods in Class 19, wooden windows. The company from Kostomłoty Pierwsze claimed it operates since 1 June 1997. Its business activities include the production of windows and doors of PVC in the four southern voivodeships. The company argued that the simultaneous use of the OKLAND sign in its company name and as a trade mark registered for a different entrepreneur may increase the risk of misleading the public, which includes in particular the risk of association between signs. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. Okland from Rokitki filed a complaint against this decision.

R-154904

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 31 May 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 601/10 held that the registration of a trade mark that is identical or similar to a company name of another entrepreneur does not determine, however the infringement of the rights to the company name (the firm). The exclusive rights to the company name are not absolute. The limits of these rights are set by the coverage (territorial and objective) of the actual activity of a given company. The collision between identical or similar signs i.e. a company name and a trademark, may occur only within these limits. The judgment is not yet final.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 258/07

December 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 849/09

December 8th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2005, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trade mark MASTER COOK JAPART R-164044 for Przedsiębiorstwo Produkcyjno-Handlowo-Usługowe “JAPART” Zakład Pracy Chronionej from Panki. Podravka Prehrambena Industrija form Koprivnica Croatia, the owner of the word-figurative trade mark “PODRAVKA VEGETA” R-138057, gave reasoned notice of opposition to the final decision of the Patent Office on the grant of a right of protection.

R-138057

The PPO in its decision of 13 June 2008 case no. Sp. 523/06 ruled that “PODRAVKA VEGETA” is the reputed trade mark, although Podravka Prehrambena also supplied very worthless evidence materials. However, the PPO agreed with the owner that its trade mark was introduced on the Polish market in 1994, which was properly supported by documents issued on 11 October 1994 by the company’s marketing department. From this date the reputation of the trade mark could have been created and the existence of reputation is established before the date of application for the trade mark. In case of “MASTER COOK JAPART” it was before 3 April 2002. Therefore, the PPO invalidated the right of protection. Japart filed a complaint.

R-164044

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 22 May 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 2147/08 dismissed it. The Court came to the conclusion that Japart used a specific, multi-element composition of a reputed mark. The Court held that the likelihood of obtaining unfair advantage from the reputed trade mark is the obstacle that justifies the refusal to grant an exclusive right to sign that is identical or similar to the earlier a famous mark. It was therefore sufficient to assume that the applicant could use investments and financial efforts, which have previously been made by the owner of earlier trade mark to build an attractive image of the mark and attract customers. Japart filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 12 October 2010 case file II GSK 849/09 agreed with the VAC and dismissed the case. See also “Unfair competition, case I ACa 1270/10“.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 299/10

November 15th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 14 March 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trade mark Oxford Wielka Historia Świata R-187352 for goods in Class 16 such as books and periodicals. The Polish company “Oxford Educational” sp. z o.o. from Słupsk was the applicant and the holder of the right of protection. The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford (Oxford University Press) filed a request for invalidation. The OUP argued that it is obvious to everyone that Oxford is a place uniquely associated by the public around the world with the home of a famous university. Therefore, marking the goods with a signs associated with Oxford – the seat of the famous University of Oxford – may mislead the public as to the true geographical origin of products. The OUP also pointed out that, with priority from 24 April 1995, is entitled to the rights of protection to three trade marks sharing the same verbal element, OXFORD, R-103399, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS R-102351 and OXFORD ENGLISH R-102350.

R-187352

The Polish company argued that the trade mark at issue does not refer to a geographical name of Oxford town, but to holder’s company name, and therefore it is not misleading. Oxford Educational also argued that the disputed sign was created in collaboration with an English company. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. The PPO ruled that the conflicting trade marks are registered for identical goods, therefore, there is a risk of misleading the public as to their origin. Oxford Educational filed a complaint against this decision.

R-102350

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 13 May 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 299/10 dismissed the complaint. The Court held that in case of a collision between a company name (the firm) and a trade mark that was registered with the “worse priority,” the priority shall be given to the right that was previously-formed. The mere registration of a trademark that is identical or similar to another company’s name (firm) does not provide even a breach of the rights to the company. However, the right to the company name would be infringed if the registration of a conflicting trade mark interferes with the exercise of this right. This distortion is misleading as to the identity of actors (acting under the company name and usign the sign) and therefore may jeopardize the company name. In case of a known, reputable, i.e. “strong” trade mark it means that the consumer awareness is associated with the recognized high-quality of products, derived from the manufacturer with high reputation. Thus, the registration of the questioned trade, and more – its application was made with a clear intention to benefit from the reputation of the OXFORD trade mark.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 807/10

November 8th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 27 January 2007, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection for GUCIO trade mark R-187648 for goods in Class 25 such as children’s shoes.

Guccio Gucci S.p.A. the owner of two word-figurative trade marks GUCCI R-181633 and GUCCI R-184796 gave a notice of opposition to a final decision of the PPO on the grant of a right of protection to GUCIO trade mark. While proving the reputation of GUCCI trade marks, the Italian company stressed the fact that it owns many stores, where high-quality clothing and footwear is sold and it also includes shoes for children. The customers of these stores are known and influential people. The company argued that since the mid-twentieth century, the Gucci brand and products bearing this trade mark are associated with the highest quality and luxury – Gucci has become sort of “certificate of quality.” The Company pointed out that Gucci fashion house brings together leading, world fashion designers thus have a substantial impact on global fashion trends. Consequently, the goods that are marked with this symbol appear in numerous television programs, shows and magazines on fashion. GUCCI argued that similar trade marks in conjunction with the homogenity of goods for which these signs are clearly intended, may to lead to the risk of their association, and even confusion by customers, and this causes the possibility of customer confusion as to the origin of goods.

R-181633

Sławomir Piwowarczyk, the holder of GUCIO trade mark argued that the word GUCIO is a diminution of GUSTAW. The PPO dismissed the opposition. Guccio Gucci S.p.A. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 30 August 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 807/10 dismissed the complaint and held that dissimilar signs cannot lead to customers’ associations, so there can be no issue of imitation, and conscious deriving of benefits from someone else’s reputation. If the similarity between the signs does not occur there is no need to examine whether there was the use of another person’s reputation. The examination whether there are similarities between the trade marks is the “precondition” of establishing the argument/view that the use of reputation has been made. The second condition is to establish/examine that the trade mark has a reputation. The judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case no. Sp. 541/07

November 3rd, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 30 October 2002, Centrum Szybkiej Diagnostyki Kardiologicznej “KARDIOMED” Maciej Żabówka, Maciej Bylica from Tarnów applied for the word-figurative trade mark KARDIOMED for goods in Class 36 and in Class 44 such as rental of medical equipment, devices and medical apparatus. On 1 August 2004, the Polish Patent Office granted the right of protection R-180711.

R-180711

Another Polish entrepreneur, Centrum Kardiologiczne KARDIOMED Lucja Kieras-Deżakowska from Sosnowiec, filed a notice of opposition against the decision of the PPO on the grant of a a right of protection. The opposing party raised a number of arguments: the infringement of the rights to the company name, the misleading nature of the questioned sign, that the application for a trade mark was made in bad faith, confusing similarity. Lucja Kieras-Deżakowska argued that on 8 August 2001 she applied for the wor-figurative trade Mark Kardiomed for goods in Class 44 such as medical services for people in medical consulting rooms, counseling and medical care, m dical diagnostics, echocardiography, ultrasound, electrocardiography, stress tests, heart rate and pressure records, medical examination, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, paramedical services. The decision on the grant of the right of protection R-162886 was given on 6 May 2005. Ms Kieras-Deżakowska claimed the similarity of signs and services.

R-162886

The Adjudicative Board of the Polish Patent Office in its decision of 13 September 2010 case no. Sp. 541/07 dismissed the opposition. The PPO ruled that the services are different. And although the signs do have similarities, it eliminates the risk of confusion. The PPO also noted that the civil court, should assess whether the proprietor has committed an act of unfair competition. As for other grounds of the Board found no evidence to support them. The decision may be appealed against to the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw.

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.

Z-336460

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.

CTM-002135812

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 VI SA/Wa 180/10

September 6th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 16 June 2010 case VI SA/Wa 180/10 held that in assessing the confusing similarity the PPO should not be limited to include only one component of a complex sign while comparing it with another trade mark. On the contrary, such a comparison is made by examining the signs as whole.

Procedural law, case VI SA/Wa 2094/06

February 27th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company BI-ES sp. z o.o., the owner of the word-figurative trade mark BI-ES R-137322, requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the word trade mark BI-KOR R-151731 registered for BIKOR Elżbieta Korbutt. for goods in Class 3 such as cosmetics, in Class 5 such as pharmaceutical preparations for cosmetic purposes, and in Class 41 for services such as organizing and conducting cosmetic and make-up exhibition for contests and educational purposes.

R-137322

BI-ES noted that its trade mark was registered with the earlier priority for the wide spectrum of goods in Class 3 such as perfumery products, perfumes, toilet waters, perfumed sprays, colognes, essential oils and others. The Company claimed that both trade marks are very similar and BIKOR used the idea to separate of the first syllable BI from the second segment with a dash.

BIKOR argued that its sign was present on the marker much earlier than BI-ES. This sign has been applied to the Polish Patent Office in March 1995, four years before the trade mark BI-ES, but this application failed due to temporary financial difficulties.

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request and ruled that both trade marks differ in all three aspects. The PPO noted that it would be hard to prove that there was imitation on the notation of both signs, becasue there were many registrations of marks with a dash. BI-ES filed a complaint against this decision. The Company argued that BIKOR was not represented properly, becasue the PoA has not been signed by Elżbieta Korbutt. The signature was partially illegible. Admission of a case where the party was represented by a patent attorney without proper PoA is a flagrant violation of the procedural rules and the decision resulting from that proceedings should be annulled because it was rendered as a result of defectively performed administrative proceedings.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 February 2007 case file VI SA/Wa 2094/06 dismissed it. The Court ruled that the PPO did not correctly examine the similarity of signs based on the etymology of BI- prefix, however, the whole assesment proved that both signs are disimilar. The VAC noted that the power of attorney should be given in writing and attached to the case file when making the first legal action. The Court found that the copy of PoA was on the case file and it was issued under the authority and properly signed next to the stamp of a company. The original PoA was on file for the trade mark BI-KOR R-151731. The power of attorney was not challenged in the course of the invalidation proceedings, by the trade mark owner or the opponent.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1111/08

January 13th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 24 July 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 237/08 dismissed Tiffany & Broadway Inc. Div. of Texpol Corporation’s appeals against the Polish Patent Office decisions of 19 March 2007 case files Sp. 68/04 and Sp. 69/04, regarding the invalidation of the right of protection for word-figurative trade marks TIFFANY R-128063 and “Tiffany & Broadway Inc.” R-128064 which were registered in class 25 for shoes. The New York’s company argued inter alia that use of TIFFANY trade mark for goods such as footwear is a parasitic activity that uses another’s trade mark reputation and is bringing undue financial benefit to the holder of national registrations. The Company also stressed the fact that its trade mark is subject to protection under article 8 of the Paris Convention.

The VAC ruled that the application for the protection of the TIFFANY mark for goods in class 25 was contrary to the principles of social coexistence because it caused the risk of weakening the reputation of the trade mark. Given the fact that the shoes are cheap and readily available, there is a risk of dilution of the reputation of TIFFANY trade mark and it may lead to lose its attractiveness among the exclusive clientele of goods bearing this mark.

The SAC in a judgment of 8 July 2009, case file II GSK 1111/08 ruled that 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, subsequent amendments, do not explicitly provide for any special protection for unregistered reputed trade marks. However, the doctrine and the Polish case law have already accepted the concept, that such protection could be provided under article 8(1) of the TMA.

A trademark shall not be registrable if:
1) it is contrary to law or to the principles of social coexistence;

In particular looking at the circumstance of “a trade mark conflicting with the principles of social coexistence”, from the subjective perspective – it was commented that, the “contradiction/variance with the principles of social coexistence” may concerning the conduct/behavior of the applicant. On the basis of such conclusions, the registration of a sign for the goods of another kind, if the registration was intended to use the reputation of another’s trade mark or it was a threat of such reputation, was excluded. A trade mark application that was filed contrary to the principles of social coexistence, was an application made in bad faith. The absolute grounds/obstacles that are provided against the registration of the mark as defined in article 8(1) of the TMA do not directly refer to the relationship between the sign that was applied for and any other competing trade mark, however, in accordance with the accepted interpretation of that provision, in case of the infringement of the rules of social coexistence, the obstacle could be the inappropriate behavior on the applicant (its actions done in bad faith). The assessment of applicant’s actions, who was motivated by the desire to use another’s trade mark reputation, should therefore be also varied according to circumstances of its motivation and, not only related to the trade mark itself.

The application for the right of protection for a trade mark that was made with the intent to use another trade mark’s reputation should be judged as an application that was made with the breach of the rules of social coexistence (application made in bad faith), regardless of whether it concerns a reputed registered trade mark or unregistered reputed trade mark.

The Polish case law, for instance the Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 9 May 2008, case file II GSK 506/07, that was previously reported in the post entitled “Trade mark law, case II GSK 506/07“, already established the rule that in a case of famous trade mark and its reputation, besides its recognition, it must be also characterized by the following characteristics:

  • market share/participation (both quantity and value of sold goods),
  • range and long-lasting of an advertisment of the product bearing a trade mark,
  • territorial and temporal range of use,
  • licences granted for trade mark use, quality of goods bearing a trade mark,
  • value of a given sign in assessment of an independent financial institution,
  • size and extent of expenditures spent on promotion of a mark,
  • the relationship on prices of substitute goods,
  • if (and to what extent) the mark is used by third party.

The SAC also noted that the Community case law provides several fundamental conditions for the recognition of a trade mark as a reputed one. These are:

  • knowledge of the trade mark by a significant group of customers,
  • the contribution of the trade mark in the market,
  • intensity and geographic scope of the use,
  • intensity matching of goods with the trade mark,
  • the size of expenditures on advertising and promotion of the trade mark.

The SAC cited, inter alia, the judgment of the Court of Justice of the UE of 14 September 1999 case C-375/97, General Motors and the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 13 December 2004 case T-8/03, El Corte Ingles and the CFI’s judgment of 25 May 2005 case T-67/04, Spa Finders.

It is also clear that the reputation of a trade mark must be assessed and established in the country in which the protection is sought. If one would like to qualify a given trade mark as a reputed one in the Republic of Poland, then the argument of the international reputation of a trade mark is not sufficient. The basic circumstance for the recognition of the reputation of a sign in a specific country is to show by a person who is invoking this argument, the market share in terms of both quantity and value of goods sold.

The SAC held that provisions of the First Directive 89/104/EEC of 21 December 1988 do not preclude the possibility of granting the protection to unregistered reputed trade marks under the national law. Just to keep it in order, it is worth adding, that 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, provides for such a possibility in the Article 132(2)(iii).

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

The protection of registered trade marks to the extent of the wording of Article 4(4)(a) of the Directive. The trade mark application that was made in bad faith shall be rejected based on the absolute ground for refusal of protection based on the provisions of Article 131(2)(i) of the IPL.

2. A right of protection shall not be granted for a sign, if:
(i) it has been applied for protection with the Patent Office in bad faith,

The SAC ruled that the provisions of Article 4(4)(a) of the Directive cannot be interpreted as the maximum limitation for the protection of famous marks in the national law and it would be difficult to follow the arguments that the First Directive 89/104 is an example of the so-called “complete harmonization” citing the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 9 January 2003 in case C-292/00, Davidoff & Cie S. A.

According to the SAC, the court of first instance (VAC) wrongly assumed the bad faith of the applicant and it did not consider the fact that the applicant has conducted its business in Poland since 1990 with the use of the mark, and after about five years of its activity, the company applied for the registration of the mark. These circumstances certainly were not indifferent to assess the intentions and purposes of the applicant so the VAC should address them in the grounds of the appeal.

When deciding on the interpretation of Article 8(1) of the TMA, which allows for the protection of not registered reputed trade marks in Poland, it should be also noted, that such protection have a special character because it applies to unregistered marks, and it is an exception to the principle of protecting industrial property rights by the registration process. This requires preserving much care, so that without proper justification, would not depreciate the importance of registering trade mark and it would not reduced the registration to a purely formal procedure that has no importance.

Therefore, the SAC annulled both questioned judgments of the Voivodeship Administrative Court and returned to the VAC for reconsideration in accordance with the conclusions reached and ordered the Polish Patent Office to pay Tiffany & Broadway Inc. Div. of Texpol Corporation 1200 PLN as reimbursement of costs of the cassation compliant.

See also “Trade mark law, case II GSK 1110/08” and “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 214/08“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 156/09

December 12th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 16 October 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 927/08 dismissed the complaint against the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the refusal to decide on the lapse of the right of protection of GAP R-171132 and GAP R-171135 trade mark owned by GAP (ITM) INC. Przedsiębiorstwo Prywatne GAPPOL Marzena Porczyńska who was the applicant in the case before the PPO, filed a cassation complaint against this decision.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 October 2009 case file II GSK 156/09 dismissed the compliant and held that pursuant to Article 315(1) of the IPL, the provisions of the old Trade Marks ACT are used to assess the effects of legal events occurring during their validity, while the effects of legal events that occurred after 22 August 2001, should be assessed under the provisions of the IPL, also when they related to the existing rights. To assess the effects of the expiry of the period/deadline that was required for recognizing the request to decide on the lapse of the right of protection as effective – if such a request was made after 22 August 2001, the provisions of the IPL should be used.

The Court held that in favor to adopt the date of issuance of the decision granting a right of protection as the starting point of the five-year period referred to in Article 169(1)(i) of the IPL, speaks the literal interpretation of this provision.

Article 169
1. The right of protection for a trademark shall also lapse:
(i) on failure to put to genuine use of the registered trademark for the goods covered by the registration for a period of five successive years after a decision on the grant of a right of protection has been taken, unless serious reasons of non-use thereof exist.

The SAC reached such conclusions because the “registered trademark” as referred to in this article, appears only after the decision in the matter was issued, and not on the date of filing a trade mark application.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 155/09

November 30th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 5 September 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1061/08 dismissed the complaint against the decision of the Polish Patent Office on the refusal to grant the right of protection to MLEMIX MAZURSKI Z-275675 trade mark. Spółdzielnia Mleczarska MLEKPOL from Grajewo filed cassation complaint.

Z-275675

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 15 October 2009 case file II GSK 155/09 held that the statutory conditions to obtain a right of protection for trade mark set out in Article 132 of the IPL must be met on the date of a trade mark application, and not on the date of the issuance of the decision of the Polish Patent Office that ends the case.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 1022/08

September 11th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

R-221567

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

Trade mark law, case II GSK 986/08

August 31st, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 June 2009 case file II GSK 986/08 held that the provisions of Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL does not refer only to the so-called direct risk, that is a situation where the similarity of the opposing trade marks is so close that the consumer may be easily confused but also a situation of the so-called indirect risk, which is based on the fact that the potential customer may mistakenly associate both trade marks.

2. A right of protection for a trademark shall not be granted, if the trademark:
(ii) is identical or similar to a trademark for which a right of protection was granted or which has been applied for protection with an earlier priority date (provided that the latter is subsequently granted a right of protection) on behalf of another party for identical or similar goods, if a risk of misleading the public exists, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark.

The risk of confusion as referred to in that provision of the IPL, includes therefore the likelihood of customer confusion as to the origin of the goods in the strict sense, as well as the risk of confusion as to the relationship of sources of origin of goods bearing the opposed trade marks. This is simply a situation where the average customer, following the association between two marks, may assume that a company using a similar trade mark as the owner of a prioro right , is in economiclegal or organizational relationships, that are essential for the manufacture, marking, and the introduction of a product to the market. This case concerned a decision on definitive refusal to recognize the protection of Tim IR-0809911 trade mark.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 197/08

June 11th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 5 September 2007, the Polish Patent Office dismissed the opposition filed by the German company Merck against the word trade mark zalbion R-159782 owned by the Polish company Bioton and registered for goods in Class 5 such as pharmaceuticals. Merck argued that the opposed trade mark is similar to its word trade mark cebion R-64136. Merck noted that Cebion is a well known sign since 80ties and enjoys big reputation on the Polish and international market. The PPO decided that the goods bearing the opposed trade marks are homogenous and it did not matter that they have a different application and are directed to different consumers. Cebion is a preparation with vitamin C, and it is a type of product available without any prescription, zalbion is eye drops product available only on prescription. However, the PPO found that both signs are phonetically dissimilar, despite the common syllable, and they have fanciful meaning. The PPO also said that evidence of the reputation of cebion presented by Merck was insufficient. Merck filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 12 August 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 197/08 anulled the contested decision and decided that it was not subject to execution. The Court held that the PPO has not made a thorough review of the presented evidence. The judgment is final.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 896/08

May 31st, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

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

R-164202

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

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

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

Trade mark law, case V CSK 109/08

April 24th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

VKR Holding A/S from Horsholm sued Polish company OKPOL for trade mark infrigement and the delict (tort) of unfair competition. The suit was based on the provisions of Article 296(2)(iii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), published in Dziennik Ustaw (Journal of Laws) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text on 13 June 2003, Dziennik Ustaw No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

Infringement of the right of protection for a trade mark consists of unlawful use in the course of trade of:
(iii) a trade mark identical or similar to a renowned trade mark registered for any kind of goods, if such use without due cause would bring unfair advantage to the user or be detrimental to the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trade mark.

The compalint was also based on Article 3(1) the Act of 16 April 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji), Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 47, item 211, with subsequent amendments.

The act of unfair competition shall be the activity contrary to the law or good practices which threatens or infringes the interest of another entrepreneur or customer.

The District Court ruled that the figurative element of the trade mark in question, and its characteristic composition, have more influence on consumer awareness and subconscious than does their verbal aspect and that it is therefore necessary to protect VKR Holding’s brand, even if there are differences between the competing signs in verbal aspects. The court held that the signs are similar and that VELUX, being the renowned one, should benefit from the increased legal protection, as compared to “normal” i.e. the later mark of OKPOL company. The Polish company did not agree with such findings and filed an appeal complaint.

R-63259

The Court of Appeal in its judgment of 3 October 2007, shared the conclusions and assessments of the court of first instance that VELUX brand has the status of a reputable and renowned trade mark, and that word-figurative sign OKPOL is similar to VELUX which brings the risk of association between these signs. The risk of confusion is determined by the dominant element that both marks share – the red rectangle. According to the Court there is a similarity between disputed trade marks because of the overall visual impression and there is no significant difference in the word characters. The Court of Appeal also agreed for the admissibility of granting the protection under article 3(1) of the CUC because OKPOL’s action were in Court’s opinion very parasitic. In the Court’s view such behaviour was based on taking the advantage of VELUX’s renown and should be deemed an act of unfair competition, as behaviour contrary to the principles of good practices, which should be based honesty in business.

The Polish company filed a cassation complaint before the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland in which it asked three important questions:
(a) May a person try to prohibit the use of a registered trade mark, referring to the right of registration of another trade mark?
(b) Is the protection of well-known/renowned trade marks based on the article 296(2)(iii) of the IPL or may it be protected also with reference to the provisions of the Act on combating unfair competition?
(c) How far one person can monopolize the principle of creating trade marks, especially word-figurative trade marks in relation to commonly encountered combination of colours and shapes that are used on the market?

The Polish Supreme Court in its judgment of 23 October 2008 case file V CSK 109/08 agreed with the lower courts that the risk of association should be based on similarity of figurative elements that both trade marks share. In court’s opinion, the overall visual impression is the basis for creating a positive image of VELUX products and it decides on the risk of association, in consequence, enabling for the parasitic use of the mark by the Polish company and which also led to dilution of the distinctive character and reputation associated with the VELUX trade mark.

R-183931

The Court also ruled that, if the use of a registered trade mark infringes on a previously registered trade mark, the infringer should refrain from using his right of protection because it is not a subject to protection based on rules of the civil law. The protection granted by the Polish Patent Office has only a formal aspect and it is governed by the administrative proceedings. In case of trade mark infringement it is up to the civil court to decide during the civil proceedings whether trade mark that was registered later should be afforded legal protection. There is no reason and no need to file a request for invalidation of the right of protection before the PPO.

In the answer to the second question the SC based its answer on the wording of Article 1(2) of the IPL.

The provisions of this Law shall not prejudice the protection of the subject matter referred to in paragraph (1)(i) [i.e. the relationships in the field of inventions, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications and topographies of integrated circuits], provided for in other legal acts.

The protection of renowned trade marks is afforded by both acts. As regards “monopolization”, the SC ruled that the Polish company was banned from using a sign that associates to a specific sign used by the VKR Holding A/S. Accordingly, no-one was granted a protection right to the principle of creating a trade mark. A comparison of the protection provided for in case of infringement of the right of protection for a trade mark with the scope of the protection provided for in the event of an act of unfair competition, it is clear that the scope of protection claims in the CUC is broader. Thus, there isn’t any sufficient axiological justification that in case of the infringement of a famous trade mark, which also involves a breach of good manners, the trade mark owner should be denied wider legal remedies provided for in the CUC. It would be contrary to the fundamental purpose of that Act, which is to ensure the healthy market competition.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 654/08

March 20th, 2009, Tomasz Rychlicki

On 29 December 2004, the Polish Patent Office registered the word trade mark DIX R-158898 applied for on 24 May 2001 by the Polish company Gold Drop in Classes 1, 2 and 3. On 20 December 2003 Gold Drop applied to register another word-figurative trade mark DIX also in Classes 1, 2 and 3. The PPO registered this trade mark R-160901 on 11 April 2005 accordingly.

R-158898

The French company Balenciaga from Paris opposed these registrations. The request to invalidate the right of protection was based on the provisions of Article 132(2)(ii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law – IPL – (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej), published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with subsequent amendments.

2. A right of protection for a trade mark shall not be granted, if the trade mark:
(ii) is identical or similar to a trade mark for which a right of protection was granted or which has been applied for protection with an earlier priority date (provided that the latter is subsequently granted a right of protection) on behalf of another party for identical or similar goods, if a risk of misleading the public exists, in particular by evoking associations with the earlier mark.

Balenciaga owned the word trade mark registration LE DIX R-152201 in Class 3. This sign was registered by the PPO on 8 May 2003 with priority from 10 June 1999. The French company claimed confusing similarity of the disputed marks because of the predominating DIX element. In addition to these arguments there was also similarity of good (cleaning preparations).

R-160901

The PPO invalidated both trade marks in its decision of 13 March 2007. The PPO agreed that the disputed signs were similar and that there existed the risk of misleading the public as regards the origin of goods. Gold Drop lodged a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 7 February 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1787/07 rejected Gold Drop’s complaint in case of the trade mark DIX R-160901. As regards the similarity of goods, the Court could not agree with the assertion that the term “cleaning products” in this list of goods refers only to the category of cosmetics. In accordance with the terminology adopted in the Nice Agreement concerning the international classification of goods and services, and adopting by the Court of the language interpretation, it should be stated that the “cleaning preparations” refers to chemical products and have been clearly demarcated in the class 3 from the second group of goods that are intended for personal use, i.e. perfumery. In the Court’s view the restrictive interpretation of the term “cleaning preparations” only to the range of goods including body cosmetics would be invalid.

However, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw (in a different composition of judges) in its judgment of 21 February 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1789/07 agreed with Gold Drop’s complaint regarding the trade mark DIX R-158898. In the Court’s view, the PPO has omitted and it has not not determined, what is the relevant public in relation to which it is necessary to assess the likelihood of confusion. The PPO did not find if the relevant public was the average consumer in France or European consumers, or whether these are the goods from the so-called. “the higher shelves”, and the recipient is a demanding customer or whether the goods are intended for daily use. The evidence presented before the PPO did not allow to assume that the goods included in the list of disputed trade mark were homogeneous to goods the earlier trade mark was registered for.

Gold Drop filed a cassation complain before the Supreme Administrative Court against the VAC judgment of 7 February 2008 case file VI SA/Wa 1787/07. The SAC rejected the complaint in its judgment of 3 February 2009 case file II GSK 654/08. The Court held that Gold Drop has based its cassation complaint only on the breach of the Article 132(2)(ii) of the IPL, and the SAC confirmed that while evaluating the similarity of signs only factual findings decide the case, so it was necessary for Gold Drop to raise the plea of breach of the procedural law (administrative proceedings), which the company did not put forward and while deciding the case the SAC is limited to motions included in a complaint. This judgment is final.