TUESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2010
Poland: GESTROL is not always similar to GESTROLTEX
On 4 February 2004, the Polish company Przedsiębiorstwo Farmaceutyczne LEK-AM Sp. z o.o. from Zakroczym filed to the Polish Patent Office (PPO) a trademark application for word sign GESTROL Z-275787 for the goods in class 5, cancer drugs. In a decision of 11 April 2008 the PPO refused to grant the right of protection. The PPO found that GESTROL is similar to the earlier registered trade mark (with priority date of 6 February 2003) - GESTROLTEX R-192945 registered for BIOTON S.A. from Warsaw, for goods in class 5, pharmaceutical preparations. Article 132(2)(ii) of the Polish Act of 30 June 2000 on Industrial Property Law - IPL - (in Polish: ustawa Prawo własności przemysłowej) of 30 June 2000, published in Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) of 2001 No 49, item 508, consolidated text of 13 June 2003, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 119, item 1117, with later amendments, served as the basis for the decision to refuse to grant a right of protection.
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,
LEK-AM filed a request for re-examination of the matter. The company argued that the sign applied for is intended to mark the anticancer drug. The active substance in this preparation is a chemical compound of the generic name (INN) megestrol. Under the decision of the Polish Minister of Health, GESTROL as a medicinal product received authorization for marketing. The Minister of Health has not found confusing similarity between GESTROL and GESTROLTEX. LEK-AM pointed out that both trade marks will be identified in the course of the highly specialized medical personnel. The PPO rejected the request and LEK-AM filed a complaint before the Voivodeship Administrative Court (VAC) in Warsaw.

The Court in a judgment of 12 October 2009, case act signature VI SA/Wa 844/09, ruled that the recipient, to whom the association between the marks GESTROL and GESTROLTEX may arise, is not only a person who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect, but it is also a person with high qualifications. Anticancer drugs are not bought and ordained without the intermediary of a doctor. For this reason, evaluation of other state administrative body, namely the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocides and it is the ORMP who sets procedures and requirements for registration of signs for medicinal products, must be considered not only as a medical evaluation of the effects of the medication but also as the situation where the ORMP does not allow for the existence of two medicinal products with the same or similar name, which would prevent the identification of the product and the source of its origin at the medicinal products market. Of course, the court agreed with the PPO's argument that the registration of the name of the medicinal product in the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products at the Ministry of Health does not create an individual right to a specific drug name. Such a right exists from the time the right of protection for trademark is granted the IPL. It was obvious that the trade mark examination/registration proceedings before the PPO are independent of the proceedings before the ORMP, but it must be borne in mind that the earlier findings of one of the official bodies of Polish state cannot be neglected by another official body.

The VAC came to the conclusion that the contested decision of the PPO did not comply with the requirements of the Administrative Proceedings Code – APC – (in Polish: Kodeks postępowania administracyjnego) of 14 June 1960, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 30, item 168, consolidated text of 9 October 2000, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 98, item 1071 with subsequent amendments. According to article 107 §3 of the APC, the reasons for the administrative decision should include in particular: facts that the PPO considered proven, the evidence on which it relied and the reasons why the credibility of other evidence were denied the probative value, and the legal justification for the decision should be explain the legal basis for the decision, quoting the law. The VAC held the Polish Patent Office has not give sufficient reasons for, why it has refused to grant protection for a GESTROL trade mark.

The VAC annulled both contested decisions, and ruled them unenforceable. This judgment is not yet final. The parties may file a cassation complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court.
Posted by: Tomasz Rychlicki @ 11.58
Tags: Polish Minister of Health, Polish Patent Office, medicinal product, pharmaceutical trade marks, Voivodeship Administrative Court, Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocides, similarity of signs, average consumer,
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