Archive for: similarity of signs

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.

R-205770

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.

R-62081

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 II GSK 1378/10

March 12th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office had refused to grant the right of protection for the word trade mark PUCHATEK CHOCO Z-321348 filed by Lubella Sp. z o.o. sp. kom. ak., for goods in Class 30. Lubella provided a letter of consent, which had been granted by Maspex Sp. z o.o., the owner of the prior-registered trade marks that include word element PUCHATEK. The PPO decided that it cannot consider the letter of consent, inter alia, for the reason that commercial relationships between the entities are not permanent. The use of a letter of consent in such a case could potentially cause problems when dealing with its withdrawal when the cooperation between the entities has ceased to exist. The PPO also remind that the Polish Industrial Property law provides for the institution of the letter of consent, only to signs whose protection lapsed. Lubella filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 July 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 600/10. Lubella filed a cassation complaint.

R-159163

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 December 2011 case file II GSK 1378/10 upheld the questioned judgment. The Court agreed with the PPO that Lubella was a different legal entity from the right holder of earlier trade marks that were considered as similar. The Court noted that it should be always borne in mind that the task of a trade mark is to distinguish the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. The trade mark has to fulfill the function of determination of origin. This function is expressed objectively by commodity/goods, to which the sign is assigned, and it provides the consumer an idea about the qualities of a particular product, and subjectively i.e. the trade mark belongs to a given undertaking based on the right of protection that was granted to him or her, and it lets for the identification of the goods with the source that is indicated abstractly or by name. The protected trade mark should prevent from the risk of confusion on the part of consumers, because on the one hand it protects the economic interests of entitled entrepreneur, on the other hand it is aimed at consumers, in order to distinguish the origin of the goods. The SAC also reminded after the VAC that the Polish Patent Office does not examine the way in which the trademark is used on the market, except for its reputation, notoriety or secondary meaning i.e. acquired distinctiveness. The examination of a trade mark application is carried out in abstracto, that is, in isolation from market conditions.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 2041/11

February 15th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sfinks Polska S.A. requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the rights of protection for word-figurative trade mark CLEOPATRA R-153234 owned by Restauracja CLEOPATRA Bachar Aziz from Lublin. Sfinks Polska owns earlier registered word-figurative trade mark SPHINX R-105162.

R-153234

Sfinks claimed that the trade mark CLEOPATRA R-153234 is similar to its trade mark and argued that it has legal interest in this proceedings as there is a possibility of misleading customers based on the similarity of trade marks. This could be particularly applicable considering the fact that SPHINX trade mark is already known on the market and, therefore, it has a stronger distinctive ability. Sfinks also argued that Bachar Aziz filed its trade mark in bad faith with an intent to use the reputation of Sfinks’ trade marks by suggesting a common origin from a single entity.

R-105162

The Polish Patent Office dismissed the request and decided that the trade marks, in this case, are different in all aspects. Sfinks Polska S.A. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 27 December 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 112/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly decided that there are visible differences in both signs. The VAC also ruled that the application for a trade in bad faith may occur in a situation in which the applicant is linked with the owner of the earlier sign with a special relationship of trust resulting, for example, from cooperation contracts or agreements. The trade mark can be filed in bad faith in order to acquire a financial extortion from the owner of an earlier sign, or to gain control of that entity, or to force the conclusion of the license agreement, etc. The trade mark can be also filed in bad faith with the intention to block the use of the prior sign or in order to acquire of the market position of the holder of the earlier mark. However, the allegation of bad faith trade mark application has not been proven by Sfinks Polska S.A.

See also “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 112/11“.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 839/10

January 17th, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

Nufarm Australia Limited, the owner of the trade mark DUAL SALT TECHNOLOGY R-164428 registered for goods in Class 5, requested the Polish Patent Office to decide on the lapse of the right of protection for DUAL IR-0534713 owned by Syngenta Participations AG. Earlier before, Syngenta opposed the registratin of the trade mark DUAL SALT TECHNOLOGY R-164428.

Syngenta requested the PPO to dismiss the request. The Company provided evidence of use of the trade mark DUAL IR-0534713. There were six copies of VAT invoices from the period from 2002 to 2006, of sale of goods bearing the sign “DUAL GOLD 960 EC”, and two newspaper articles concerning this product and the material safety data sheets of “DUAL GOLD 960 EC of August 2005.

The Polish Patent Office decided on the lapse of the right of protection for DUAL IR-0534713 and dismissed the opposition against the registration of the trade mark DUAL SALT TECHNOLOGY R-164428. Syngenta filed a complaint against this decision. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 19 March 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 1807/09 dismissed it. Syngenta filed a cassation compliant.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file II GSK 839/10 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration. The SAC ruled that the cassation complaint can be based on the following grounds: a) the violation of substantive law by its erroneous interpretation or misuse, or the violation of proceedings rules, if it could affect the outcome of the case. The specific provisions of substantive law or procedural law, which were violated the court of first instance, should be indicated. Furthermore, it should be precisely explained What was the misapplication or misinterpretation – in relation to substantive law, or it should be demonstrated what was the significant impact of the violation of procedural law to decide the case by the court of first instance – in relation to the rules of proceedings. The Supreme Administrative Court cannot change or precise cassation complaints and their grounds, or otherwise correct them, due to limitations resulting from the mentioned rules. If the cassation complaint alleges violation of both substantive law and proceedings, as it was in the present case, the Supreme Administrative Court recognizes the allegation of violation of proceedings, in the first place.

The SAC decided the PPO has erred in its findings because it considered that the evidence submitted on, was from the years 2002-2006, while there was also an invoice from March 2007 on the case file, which was of the relevance to the case. It was a sales invoice of the preparation DUAL GOLD 960 EC 12 XI and DUAL GOLD 960 EC 4X 5 L. Surprisingly, the Supreme Administrative Court acknowledged, that the case facts showed that the trade mark DUAL GOLD lapsed on June 2006, so as a trade mark it ceased to exist on the market from that date (it was not registered). Since the trade mark DUAL GOLD ceased to exist in legal transactions after June 2006, the Polish Patent Office should examine whether this sign could be used in this situation, as indicated on the invoice of March 2007, or perhaps the invoice indicated the use of any other trade mark, for example, the trade mark DUAL, and therefore the Article 170 (1) of the IPL should be applied in this case.

Article 170
1. Subject to paragraph (2), the Patent Office shall dismiss a request for declaring the right of protection lapsed in the case referred to in Article 169(1)(i), if before the submission of the request genuine use of the mark has started or has been resumed.

2. Start or resumption of the use of the trademark after the expiration of an uninterrupted period of five successive years of non-use and within a period of three months preceding the submission of the request for declaring the right of protection lapsed, shall be disregarded, if preparations for the start or resumption of the use have been undertaken immediately after the right holder became aware of possible submission of such request.

3. Paragraphs (1) and (2) shall apply accordingly in the cases referred to in Article 169(7).

4. Loss of a right to use a sign or a symbol, referred to in Article 131(2) incorporated in a trademark shall not constitute a ground for non-making a decision declaring the right of protection for that trademark lapsed, if that sign or symbol ceased to be used in the trademark before a request for the declaration of the right of protection lapsed has been submitted.

In light of this evidence, which were the facts of this case, where a detailed analysis could affect the outcome of the case, it was premature by the court of first instance to rule and to say that, in this case that the genuine use of the mark has not started or has not been resumed, and PPO in this case did not erred in law, because it has analyzed all the evidence gathered. Considering other procedural allegations, the SAC held that administrative courts are not required in justification of its judgments to refer to each decision of Polish or European courts, that were cited by the author of a complaint. Such obligation can not be inferred from any provision of the Polish Act on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts. However, the administrative court should refer to these judgments, of which the applicant derives important arguments for the assessment of the case. In this case, the Court of first instance did not meet this requirement.

The SAC noted that the doctrine of law and case-law indicate that the trade mark proprietor may use its sign in an altered form in connection to the form of a sign that was registered. This alteration however, cannot apply to elements that decide on the distinctiveness of the sign, or may not lead to changes in represented form as a distinctive whole. See the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 24 May 2006 case file II GSK 70/06. The SAC confirmed the high degree of freedom to dispose of a trademark by its proprietor, and cited the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 24 June 2008 case file II GSK 251/08. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 251/08“. The SAC found that the VAC has not sufficiently analyzed of all substantive rules in the context of this case. However, both situation where the violation of substantive law may happen, i.e., violation of substantive law by its incorrect interpretations or inappropriate use, refer only to cases where the facts of the case were established in no uncertain terms. Otherwise, the alleged breach of substantive law is at least premature. This situation took place in this case, because the author of the complainant cassation alleged in the first place the violation of the proceedings by the VAC. The violation of proceedings was based on the refusal by the court of first instance to repeal the decision issued by the Polish Patent Office, in a situation when that PPO did not adequately explain the facts of the case and did not examine in a comprehensive manner the whole of the evidence.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 586/11

January 2nd, 2012, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark @ @lfanet Z-331247 applied for by @ALFANET Marcin Małolepszy from Borowo Kolonia for for goods and services in Classes 09, 37, 38, 42 and 45.

Z-331247

The PPO decided that the applied trade mark is similar to the word trade mark ALFANET R-145012 registered with the earlier priority for the Polish company ALPHANET sp. z o.o. for services in class 38. The PPO did not agree with the applicant that ALFANET sign has weak distinctive character. Although the ending “net” is not distinctive for services related to the IT industry, but combined with the word “alpha”, it creates a neologism, which can be deemed as a fanciful sign.

Mr Małolepszy filed a complaint against the decision of the PPO, arguing that grant of a right of protection for a trade mark in respect of specific goods should not constitute an autonomous ground for refusal to grant a right of protection for a trade mark in respect of the goods identical or similar to those of another undertaking for a sole reason that the trade mark contains an identical or similar sign which refers to personal interests, in particular the owner’s name.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 586/11 dismissed the complaint and held that the argument that the applicant relied on is an exception to the rule of inadmissibility of the coexistence of similar signs, and as such can not be broadly interpreted, and it should be applied with caution, taking into account not only the ratio legis, but also the principles provided in the Polish Industrial Property Law, that relate to trade marks and their basic functions. Although the provisions of Article 135 of the IPL, in contrast to previous regulations, do not include the condition that the applied trade mark should not be misleading, but, in the opinion of the Court, the interpretation that would lead to the registration of two identical or similar trade marks for identical goods and/or services, could not be accepted.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 723/11

December 28th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

In 2007, the Polish Patent Office registered the word-figurative trademark citibank handlowy R-190720, for the American company Citibank, N.A., a National Banking Association. In 2008, Citigroup Inc. applied for the word trade mark CITI HANDLOWY Z-337716.

R-190720

The Polish Patent Office refused to grant the right of protection, despite the fact that Citibank N.A. is the sole shareholder of the Citigroup Inc., and Citigroup Inc. provided a letter of consent from its parent company. The PPO decided that both signs would mark very similar goods and services and are directed to the same audience. There is also visuall similarity, caused by common elements. The PPO noted that it is not obliged to take into account the letter of consent issued by Citibank, N.A. Citigroup Inc. filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 9 December 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 723/11 dismissed it. The Court held that the PPO correctly examined all evidence and properly decided on the similarity of signs. The VAC noted that that letters of consent may be evidence in proceedings, but they do not bind the PPO. The VAC pointed to the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 279/07. The SAC held that a letter of consent cannot be used as ground to register a trade mark since the Republic of Poland did not implement Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1236/11

December 6th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

LEK, tovarna farmacevtskih in kemicnih izdelkov 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 trade mark KETOGEL R-190416 registered for Polpharma S.A. for goods such as pharmaceuticals. LEK argued that KETOGEL is similar to its word trade mark KETONAL. The PPO dismissed the opposition, and LEK filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 7 September 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1236/11 dismissed it. The court noted that in case of the assesment of similarities between trade marks, the number of syllables, their sound and touch have the importance in deciding on phonetic similarity. Visual similarity is assessed in terms of number of words or letters in general, the number of words or letters of the same type, their shape, layout and color. Consequently, a sign containing an altered distinctive element, even if there is some resemblance to other parts, will not be similar. The Court took into account the specificity of the pharmaceutical market, and excluded the likelihood of confusion in this case.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 875/11

October 27th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Juliusz Marek Nabiałek who owns the word-figurative trade mark Platan R-210901, filed a request for invalidation of the word-figurative trade mark PLATANUS OGRODY NATURALNE R-210602 registered for Przemysław Sochański. Mr. Nabiałek claimed that both signs are similar and cause the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods and services, especially since most goods and services are identical.

R-210901

Mr. Sochański claimed that he cooperated with Mr. Nabiałek in years 2001-2005. He emphasized that Mr. Nabiałek, without his knowledge or consent registered the trade mark Platan in 1995, but it was the name of a company that was founded by Sochański. In March 2007, he learned about this registration when he was served with the cease and desist letter prohibiting the use of the name Platan. Therefore, Sochański applied on 15 March 2007, for the right of protection for PLATANUS OGRODY NATURALNE trade mark. Therefore, he thought that the request for invalidation is a malicious and solely personal action. Mr Nabiałek decided to narrow the request only for services in Class 42 such as services in architecture, biological research, advice on environment protection. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection. Sochański filed a complaint against this decision.

R-210602

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 875/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable. The Court ruled that both trade marks are not similar and the similarity of goods and services is reduced only to their common numbering according to the Nice Classification. The VAC ruled that there was violation of the provisions of the administrative procedure, because the PPO did not consider all of the evidence required to decide the case, and has not indicated why certain facts were accepted as proven, and why others were denied the credibility and probative value.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 211/11

October 6th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

SOREMARTEC S.A. requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the trade mark Raffaello Spumante Dolce Sweet Spumante QUALITA SOPERIORE R-182895 registered for Toruńskie Piwnice Win VINPOL Sp. z o.o., currently VINPOL Sp. z o. o.

R-182895

SOREMARTEC claimed that this sign is similar to the renowned series of RAFFAELLO trade marks registered on its behalf, that the application was filed in bad faith, and that this sign is similar to SOREMARTEC’s trade marks to a degree that causes a risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods. SOREMARTEC noted that it is aware of VINPOL’s word trade mark RAFFAELLO R-87046 applied for registration in 1993 and subsequent word and figurative trade marks that include in their verbal elements the word “Raffaello”. Therefore, the Company did not oppose the coexistence of Raffaello pralines and sparkling wine bearing the label with the word “Raffaello” on the Polish market. However, the disputed trade mark includes the graphic version of RAFFAELLO that confusingly similar to the one that is consistently used by Ferrero for many years on the packaging of Raffaello pralines. The existence of the contested trade mark would be harmful to both the reputation and distinctiveness of its trade marks, as well as it would be unfairly “impersonating” the reputation of its trade marks without the cost of advertising and promotion. To prove the reputation of its trade marks SOREMARTEC submitted a copy of the public poll report entitled “RAFFAELLO Brand Recognition” and a copy of the report “Development of praline market in Poland”, which shows that the brand RAFFAELLO was in the forefront of the most popular brands of sweets in Poland, its advertising was one of the most remembered and associated advertising of pralines, and Raffaello pralines were among the 10 most frequently purchased and consumed pralines within 6 months preceding the date of the polls. SOREMARTEC also presented a tabulation of the total expenditure on advertising and promotion of Raffaello products in Poland, which have been incurred by Ferrero from 2001 to 2005, and a tabular summary of quantitative results of sales of Raffaello pralines for the period from February 2001 to February 2006. These data indicated that SOREMARTEC has continually expanded and refining the Raffaello’s product line incurring increasing financial investments and extensive marketing campaigns and advertising, so the demand for its products continues to grow. Moreover, SOREMARTEC argued that VINPOL applied for two other trade marks, which verbal element is identical to SOREMARTEC’s trade mark, i.e. MON CHERI R-194468 and word-figurative Mon Cheri CHERRY BRANDY & Delicious 18 High Quality R-203339, and this proves conscious and deliberate action designed to use the reputation of SOREMARTEC’s trademarks. In response, VINIPOL argued that the goods produced by SOREMARTEC, i.e., pralines, and wine are not identical or similar, and therefore there is no risk of misleading the public.

R-203339

The PPO invalidated the right of protection for the trade mark Raffaello Spumante Dolce Sweet Spumante QUALITA SOPERIORE R-182895. The PPO ruled that the circumstances, i.e. several years of presence on the Polish market of Raffaello pralines before the filing date of the contested trade mark, a volume of sales and high percentage of recognition of Raffaello trade marks and its distinctive character, what is the result of both the original form of a trade mark, as well as expenditures on promotion and advertising, confirmed the reputation of Raffaello pralines. According to the PPO, the goods such as alcohol and sweets have many features in common, particularly because they are not consumed for nutritional purposes but for pleasure, such goods can be produced by one company, and may also be sold in a set, or eaten together, which may cause the potential audience to associate sparkling wine with Raffaello pralines. The PPO decided that the contested trade mark, because of its form, will attract the attention of consumers who know the early signs and the goods, in connection with which these trade marks are used. As a result, VINPOL would gain unfair advantage that is mostly based on creating the effect of interest in the goods and services marked with this sign, without having to incur any expenditure on promotion of its goods and services. The PPO has also stressed that the fact that earlier registrations of trade marks for wines with the Raffaello element did not authorize VINPOL to create labels of those products in a form, which resemble them to reputable trade marks, and therefore let VINPOL to benefit from the fact that the recipient seeing the wine Raffaello associate them with products offered by SOREMARTEC that enjoys good reputation among buyers. VINPOL filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 29 July 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 211/11 dismissed it. The Court noted that provisions of the Polish Act on Industrial Property Law does not contain a legal definition of a reputable/renown trade mark, so the Court had to refer to the opinion developed by case law and doctrine. The Court of Justice in its judgment of 14 September 1999 Case C-375/97 Chevy formulated the definition of a renowned trademark for the first time. The doctrine points out that the reputation of a trade mark depends primarily on the quality of the goods bearing it, the financial investment made by the entrepreneur to promote its sign in the media and the period of time required for the customer to establish relationship between a specified quality with goods that bears a sign that represents this high quality (recognition of goods bearing the trade mark on the market). The passage of time needed for the establishment of reputation of the trade mark is different for goods from different industries. The period of time depends on many factors, in particular on the intensity of advertising surrounding the launch of the goods bearing the sign. Furthermore, by creating a reputation of a trade mark, the advertising function of a sign is also strengthen, because such a mark encourages customers to purchase goods bearing it. This function is the result of an advertising of a sign staggered in time, by the use of a mark by an authorized entity and the relationship created in the minds of consumers between a sign with positive associations, particularly with regard to quality, usefulness, of product, the profitability of its acquisitions, and other characteristics relevant to the recipients of goods bearing the trade. Also the domestic case law provides that the reputation of a trade mark is characterized by 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, as it was decided in the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 9 May 2008 case file II GSK 506/07, the judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 27 February 2008 case file II GSK 359/07.

The Court ruled that the PPO correctly concluded, based on the evidence presented that SOREMARTEC’s trademarks are reputable, and the sign at issue is similar in such a way that consumers can associate these characters with each other, and the use of this trade mark by VINPOL may bring unfair advantage due to the obvious use of the reputation of the trade marks owned by SOREMARTEC. The evidence showed that Raffaello pralines were present on the Polish market several years before the filing date of the contested trade mark, the sales were rising over the years, the high percentage of recognition of Raffaello, and a significant volume of promotion and advertising, created the image of the brand as a symbol of quality, delicacy and elegance. All this confirms the reputation of Raffaello pralines. At the same time as it was pointed by the Appellate Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 3 October 2007, case file I ACa 767/07, there is no requirement of likelihood of confusion in relation to reputed trade mark, only the possibility to associate a sign with a reputed trade mark that was registered earlier, which results that the first sign is able to attract customers through positive images carried by a reputable character. Associations between such trade marks occur when the designation used by the infringer automatically brings in minds of potential customers a reputable character originally used by the owner, even if the recipient is aware of the fact that both entities are completely independent. If these signs are also used to designate similar goods, there is no need to show any additional evidence. Apart whether consumers will confuse this trade mark as to the origin of the goods designated, it will draw attention to goods bearing a renowned trademarks. Such a situation would give unfair advantage resulting only from similarity to the earlier reputed mark, based mainly on the effect of interest that would arouse in the goods covered by the contested mark, without incurring any expenses for promotion of those goods.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 262/11

October 2nd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office refused to recognize the protection of the FERRERO OPERA IR-0891152 trade mark owned by SOREMARTEC S.A. The PPO decided that there are already registered similar or identical trade marks owned by Ferrero S.p.A.

SOREMARTEC argued that there is no real risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods bearing signs question, due to the fact that these trade marks are owned by closely related companies, and the goods are produced by all companies according to uniform quality standards. The Company presented documents confirming relationship between the companies, and submitted also a letter of consent.

The PPO agreed that there are regulations on letters of consent provided in the Polish Industrial Property Law. According to this provisions the owner of a lapsed trade mark may agree for a registration of a new trade mark, but the Polish legislator did not foresee similar rules relating to the signs remaining in force. However, and this is not a legal loophole. This rule is clear and there are no doubts. There’s an exception to that rule but it is very limited and it should not be interpreted broadly. As the PPO noted this is a classic example of a positive-negative regulation that is used in the legislation. As a contrario interpretation, Article 133 of the IPL sets two standards: a positive – that permits registration of the trade mark after obtaining the consent of the owner of an earlier mark that has lapsed, and negative – it does not allow for consent letters for the other collision (i.e. with signs of remaining in force, renown, reputed signs, etc.).

Article 132
1. A right of protection shall not be granted for a trade mark in respect of identical or similar goods, if the trade mark is identical or similar to:
(iii) a trade mark earlier registered in the Republic of Poland, whose registration has terminated, provided that an interval between the date of lapse of the right of protection for the trade mark and the date on which a similar trade mark has been applied for by another party, is, subject to Article 133, no longer than two years.

Article 133
The provision of Article 132(1)(iii) shall not apply where the protection has terminated under Article 169(1)(i) or the right holder of the earlier right has given his consent for the later trade mark being granted a right of protection.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 20 December 2007 case file II GSK 279/07 supported this interpretation. The SAC ruled that the provision of Article 4(5) of the First Council Directive 89/104 has not been implemented into Polish law, and it was futile to rely on the infringement of this provision, because such a consent has not the legal effect under Polish law. See “Trade mark law, case II GSK 279/07“. The examination system was adopted for the registration of trade marks in Poland. Letters of consent do not eliminate the risk of consumers’ confusion as to the origin of goods. This fact must therefore be taken into consideration during the examination of applied trade marks. The sign has to distinguish one entrepreneur from another entrepreneurs. The capital group is the association of many entrepreneurs linked to each other in different ways. If the goods are actually marketed by such a group and do not cause the confusion of consumers, the institution of a joint right of protection. The obligatory regulations governing use of trade marks adopted by the undertakings who have jointly applied for the trade mark protection, ensures that the signs will not be misleading at the time of filing the trade mark application, but also during their existance on the market. However, one can not assume in advance that the signs coming from companies that are linked organizationally and financially do not mislead consumers. There always will be a risk of consumers’ confusion. During the application proceedings, it is not possible for the PPO to examine the policy of big companies in order to identify the origin of each product offered. Therefore, if a number of separate legal entities want to use a similar trade mark, they must, in accordance with Polish law, to use the institution of a joint right of protection or simply trade mark licenses. There is no legal justification to treat the origin of signs from companies linked organizationally and financially as a guarantee of the absence of the risk of consumers confusions as to the origin of these goods.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 17 May 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 262/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable. The VAC agreed with the PPO that in principle, the mere letter of consent that was issued by a company that was unrelated organizationally and/or legally with entitled to the trade mark application, is not a basis for registration of a mark identical or similar. However, this document was not the only document on which SOREMARTEC relied to demonstrate the lack of the risk of conumers’ confusion. When examining the collected evidence material the PPO completely ignored the fact that the applicant has a number of trade marks with the word element “Ferrero” including signs from the earlier priority than the opposed trade marks. In addition, the VAC noted that SOREMARTEC owns trade marks containing the “Ferrero” element which were registered by the PPO on the basis of letters of consent.

Trade mark law, case II GSK 746/10

September 2nd, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

This is the continuation of the story described in “Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1988/09“. Kraft Foods Polska filed a cassation complaint.

R-91506

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 12 July 2011 case file II GSK 746/10 dismissed the complaint and held that the reputation of the trade mark and homogenity goods bearing the signs at issue – even if they could be taken into account while assessing the likelihood of confusion – cannot challenge the established view that there is the lack of similarity between these trade marks. The Court decided that trade marks that were subject to the opposition proceedings do not contain a common element being the same surname, because the meaning of the POLO word in these trade marks is different.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 1901/10

July 15th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark VILLA PARK WESOŁA R-171029 owned by “VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. The request was filed by MPM PRODUCT Spółka z o.o. the owner of the word trade mark “villa park” R-139436 that was registered with an earlier priority. MPM filed also a civil suit against “VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. claiming the infringement of its trade mark rights. However, the court dismissed the injunction.

R-171029

“VILLA PARK WESOŁA” Spółka z o.o. decided to file a complaint against the decision of the PPO. The Company claimed inter alia that even a civil court shared the company’s argument stating that there is no risk of confusion in a group of relevant recipients of services bearing the trademarks at issue.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 24 March 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 1901/10 dismissed the complaint and ruled that, undoubtedly, the Polish Patent Office, while considering the specific case at issue, acts under certain laws and regulations. In such situation one must understand that the PPO does not decide on the case based upon the judgments of the courts. This, of course, does not mean that if the specific circumstances of the case allow for taking into account the judgment, the Patent Office may not decide on a case in accordance with a convergent judicial decision issued in a similar case. This judgment is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case VI SA/Wa 112/11

July 7th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Sfinks Polska S.A. from Łódź requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the rights of protection for word-figurative trade mark R-179260 owned by Restauracja CLEOPATRA Bachar Aziz from Lublin. Sfinks Polska is the owner of the earlier registered word-figurative trade mark SPHINX R-105162.

R-105162

Sfinks claimed that the trade mark CLEOPATRA R-179260 is similar to its trade mark and argued that it has legal interest in this proceedings as there is a possibility of misleading customers based on the similarity of trade marks. This may be particularly applicable considering the fact that SPHINX trade mark is already known on the market and, therefore, it has a stronger distinctive ability. Sfinks also argued that Bachar Aziz filed its trade mark in bad faith with an intent to use the reputation of Sfinks’ trade marks by suggesting a common origin from a single entity.

R-179260

Bachar Aziz requested the PPO to dismiss the case. He argued the Sfinks lacks legal interest in the invalidation proceedings. Moreover, he noted that the signs, in this case, are different conceptually and phonetically. The characters are not visually similar, the earlier trade mark has the form of a sphinx (face of a man resembling an ancient sculpture) and the sign in question shows a woman’s face (Cleopatra). Mr Aziz also noted that designation of the same services by these trade marks is not sufficient to determine the risk of common origin. In this regard, he relied on the collision-free existence of the two signs on the markets in Płock and Łódź. He pointed that other businesses use the representation of the Sphinx to designate their restaurants.

The Polish Patent Office in its decision case Sp. 396/08 dismissed the request. The PPO held that the trade marks, in this case, are different in all aspects. While assessing the risk of confusion of the recipients of the services offered by the parties to the proceedings, the PPO ruled that customers of restaurants do not act on impulse as shoppers do. When choosing the restaurant they base their actions on good knowledge of the place, recommendation or advertising, so, first of all, they choose a place based on the name, thus, it is the verbal layer of a trade mark (the name of restaurant), not the graphic element, that will be critical to their selection. Sfinks filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 16 June 2011 case file VI SA/Wa 112/11 overturned the decision of the Polish Patent Office and held it unenforceable based on entirely different circumstances that one could expect. At the hearing before the Court on 3 June 2011, Sfinks’s trade mark attorney argued that she was not present at the hearing on 16 June 2010 in the Polish Patent Office on the ground that the notice of the hearing was set at 11:00 a.m. and a hearing was held on at 10:00 a.m. Therefore, Sfinks could not be represented properly, as its representative was not able to submit evidence. The Court held that Sfinks did not participate in proceedings through no fault of its own and such situation was a violation of the provisions of the Polish Administrative Proceedings Code. The judgement is not final yet.

Trade mark law, case Sp. 352/08

April 29th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Prywatne Biuro Podróży Sindbad Ryszard Wójcik from Opole, requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the word-figurative trade mark SINDBAD HOTELE R-172657 registered in Class 40 and 43 for services such as photographic film development and printing and accommodation and reservations, and owned by Przedsiębiorstwa Handlowo-Usługowego Sindbad s.c. Michał Ząbroń, Roman Mandyna from Kraków. Ryszard Wojcik is the holder of the word-figurative trade mark SINDBAD R-77988 registered with the earlier priority in Class 35 and 39 for services such as transporting of passengers and goods by car, organization of tourist trips, travel agencies and advertising agencies.

R-172657

The Adjudicative Board of the PPO in its decision of 18 April 2010 case no. Sp. 352/08 invalidated the right of protection. The PPO held that there exists similarity of the signs and services. As for services, the PPO said that accommodation and travel agency services are related. 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 II GSK 91/10

April 5th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

The Polish company Biuro Miss Polonia Sp. z o.o. filed a request for invalidation of the right of protection for the word-figurative trade mark “MISS POLONIA WORLD” R-152218 owned by MISS POLONIA A. Aldona Von Laübe from New Britain, USA. Biuro Miss Polonia argued that the registration infringes on its personal interests (company name) and the Polish company operates on the marker since a long time as the organizer of the annual, national beauty pageant. The Polish Patent Office invalidated the right in question. Aldona Von Laübe filed a complaint against this decision but it was dismissed by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 17 July 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 337/09. The American company filed a cassation complaint.

R-152218

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 8 February 2011 case file II GSK 91/10 dismissed it. The SAC ruled that there were no rational arguments that in case of existence of a trade mark similar to the company name, the infringement of personal interests and the rights to company name could take place only in cases when the entire trade mark consist of the company name. The promotion and marketing of goods bearing trade marks that are confusingly similar to the company name is also deemed as the threat to personal interests or property rights. The fact that the questioned trade mark in addition to the words “Miss” and “Polonia” (that were concurrent with the partial company name of the applicant) contained the word “World” did not deprive the applicant of the protection of the company name as a personal interests, because the designation “Miss Polonia” had sufficient distinctive characteristics that would allow for the identification of an applicant and help to distinguish it from other entities.

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 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.

Rp-2543

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.

R-134678

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.

R-155952

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 II GSK 1088/09

February 19th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Polish company Śnieżka Invest sp. z o. o. from Świebodzice requested the Polish Patent Office to decided on the lapse of the right of protection for the trademark GOPLANA MICHAŁKI R-139668 owned by Jutrzenka S.A. Śnieżka claimed that the questioned trade was not genuinely used in the period of five successive years after a decision on the grant of a right of protection has been taken. Śnieżka also owns michałki R-72668 trade mark and the company from Świebodzice argued that the market existence of GOPLANA MICHAŁKI sign would interfere its business.

Jutrzenka argued that there existed very serious reasons of non-use – the pending administrative proceedings for invalidation of its trade mark. Jutrzenka claimed that the use of the mark in the course of those proceedings would be irrational and it would expose the company to any future claims of Śnieżka. The PPO in its decision of 1 July 2008 no. Sp. 398/07 held that GOPLANA MICHAŁKI trade mark has lapsed. Jutrzenka filed a complaint. The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 26 June 2009 case file VI SA/Wa 81/09 dismissed it. Jutrzenka filed a cassation complaint.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 14 December 2010 case file II GSK 1088/09 dismissed the complaint and ruled that the case for invalidation of the trade mark registration does not qualify as an important reason for non-use thereof. The serious reasons should be factual and/or legal obstacles. These may be external events of force majeure nature that are impossible to predict and prevent. All circumstances relating to ordinary business risks, which concerns the current operations of each business cannot be deemes as such obstacles. A legal obstacle,preventing the use of a trade mark may be, for example, an individual administrative act prohibiting the use of the mark.

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 827/10

January 31st, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Czech entrepreneur Druchema Drużstvo pro Chemickou Vyrobu a Sluzby requested the Polish Patent Office for the invalidation of the right of protection for TEMPO R-104245 and TEMPO R-154752 trade marks registered for goods in Classes 02 and 03 such as wax paste for maintenance and renovation of car lacquer. Both trade marks are owned by INTER GLOBAL Sp. z o.o. Druchema argued that it owns TEMPO trade mark that was registered in the Czech Republic and INTER GLOBAL was for many years its sales representative in Poland and in this period the representative applied for on its own behalf and obtained trademark protection for TEMPO signs in Poland. The Polish and Czech company entered into an exclusive sales agreement, however, its provision did not include the powers to register TEMPO trade marks. INTER GLOBAL argued that it created and registered different trade marks. The PPO invalidated the rights of protection in its decisions of 5 October 2009 case files Sp. 448/05 and Sp. 449/05 . INTER GLOBAL filed a complaint against both decisions.

R-154752

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 29 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 827/10 dismissed the complaint and ruled that it was not necessary for the recognition of bad faith of the applicant for the right of protection for a trade mark, that the the contracting party has used a trade mark identical to a sign of its business partner during their commercial cooperation. It was sufficient that during the commercial cooperation the contracting party has used a trade mark that was very similar to the trademark invalidated.

R-104245

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 29 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 828/10 also dismissed the complaint and ruled that many years of cooperation between Polish and Czech entrepreneurs led to the fact that INTER GLOBAL had clear information about Druchema, and how it designates its products. For these reasons, by applying for the protection for the mark in question that was very similar to a trade mark used by Druchema and doing it without its consent and knowledge, INTER GLOBAL was clearly acting in bad faith. Both judgments are not final yet.

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 785/10

January 4th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Unilever N.V., the owner of the word trade mark SOLERO IR-0622723 and the word-figurative trade mark SOLERO IR-0628636, has requested the Polish Patent Office to invalidate the right of protection for the trade mark SOLEY R-129356 owned by the Polish company Maria Ziębińska, Stanisław Ziębiński “ICE MASTRY” sp. j. from Czaniec. Unilever claimed that the questioned sign is similar to its earlier registered well-known trade marks and that the Polish company acted in bad faith while applying for the right of protection because in 1997-2001, Unilever and ICE MASTRY were involved in two civil suits (case files V GC 252/97 and V GC 217/98) that have ended in a settlement in which the Polish company commited to discontinue use of the signs SOLER, Soller and SOLLEI. The PPO invalidated the right of protection. ICE MASTRY filed a complaint against this decision.

IR-0628636

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw in its judgment of 4 October 2010 case file VI SA/Wa 785/10 held that the date of application for registration under Article 11 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, determines the priority of the right of protection associated with the applied sign (prior tempore potior jure). These provisions still apply in cases where the trade mark has been applied for registration when the old Act was in force. Thus, by this date all subjective and objective issues related to the right applied for protection must also be assessed, in particular,and whether the applicant has the right to the sign.

Article 11.
Subject to Article 12, priority for obtaining the right deriving from registration of a trademark shall be determined on the basis of its regular filing for registration with the Patent Office.

The Court also noted that the TMA, as well as the new Polish Act on Industrial Property Law, does not include a provision that would regulate differently the question of the trade mark application, in relation to its subjective and objective elements and that would take into account as authoritative another, later, point in time. Moreover,the adoption at of a later date to assess the qualifications of the applicant, not only would provide an option for revalidation of trade mark applications that were filed in contradiction with the law, or principles of social coexistence (in bad faith), but may also violate other laws. The filing date of an application for the registration of a trade mark should be taken into account when assessing whether the applicant has acted in bad faith, not the date of trade mark registration. The judgment is not final yet.

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.