TUESDAY, 17 JANUARY 2012
Poland: violation of proceedings and trade mark law
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The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 October 2011 case file II GSK 839/10 repealed the contested judgment and returned it to the VAC for further reconsideration.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 owner has started or has resumed genuine use of the mark before the submission of the request to decide on the lapse of the right of protection.
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. The Court confirmed the high degree of freedom to dispose of a trademark by its proprietor. 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.
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