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Now in its twelfth year, Class 46 is dedicated to European trade mark law and practice. This weblog is written by a team of enthusiasts who want to spread the word and share their thoughts with others.

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Poland: differences in pharmaceutical trade marks
On 4 June 2002, the Polish entrepreneur Wojciech Soszyński from Sopot applied to the Polish Patent Office for the right of protection for OCERIN Z-251142 trade mark in class 5 for goods such as oral pharmaceutical preparations in a form of granulate, drops, capsules, emulsion, herbal blends, pastes, pills, powder, syrup, suspensions, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for mouthwashingin a form of aerosol, chewing gum, capsules, concentrate, drops, pills, pastes, liquids, powder, tablets, suspensions, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for dental purposes in a form of emulsion, paste, liquids, powder, tablets, suspensions, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for inhalation purposes in a form of aerosol, emulsion, gas, ointments, liquid, powder, tablet, suspension, gels, trachea and lung pharmaceutical preparations in a form of powder, solution, suspension, pharmaceutical preparations for skin care applied on skin and percutaneous in a form of medicated bath supplements, emulsion, cataplasm, collodion, concentrate, cream, ointment, dressing, paste, foam, plaster, liquids, powder, shampoo, suspension, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for eyes in a form of drops, creams, ointments, liquids, drops solvent, vaginal pharmaceutical preparations in a form of pills, tampons, vaginal douching suspensions, gels, powder, solvents for gel preparation, rectal pharmaceutical preparations in a form of suppositories, emulsion, capsules, concentrates, creams, ointments, foams, liquids, tablets, tampons, suspensions, gels, vesica and urethra pharmaceutical preparations in a form of washing liquids, powder for liquid preparation, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for ears in a form of aerosol-emulsion, solutions, suspensions, creams, drops, ointments, liquids, powders, rods, tampons, gels, pharmaceutical preparations for nose in a form of aerosol-suspension, liquids, drops, ointments, powders, rods, vaginal pharmaceutical preparations in a form of emulsion for irrigation, intravaginal tablets, intravaginal capsules, intravaginal creams, intravaginal ointments, intravaginal foams.

The Polish Patent Office (PPO) in decision of 21 July 2008 refused to grant a right of protection. The PPO noted that BEIERSDORF AG from Hamburg reported observations as to the existence of grounds that may cause a right of protection to be denied. BEIERSDORF AG argued that OCERIN is similar to its EUCERIN IR 710661 trade mark applied for with the priority of 3 March 1999 for goods in class 5 such as cosmetics for medical purposes prepared in the form of creams, gels and lotions, all for the protection of dry skin, dermatologic preparations for prevention of allergy and skin ills, medical preparations for care, washing and beauty of hair, medical preparations for shower and bath purposes, medical sun tanning preparations, medical preparations against aging of skin, prevention skin preparations against UV radiation, and another word-figurative trade mark EUCERIN IR 765927.

The PPO found that the greater part of the opposed signs is identical and differs only in the beginning. Taking into account the specificity of goods in Class 5, the consumer may think that this is a variation of a single product or products with a similar purpose. It cannot be excluded that the consumer will shift the similarity (in the core and the ending of a sign) to the origin of goods, nor that differences in the beginning of a sign, will be shifted to the differences between the products, rather than differences in terms of their origin. Thus, in both cases, the signs causes the consumer the confusion as to the origin of goods.

The PPO also noted that both signs have no particular meaning in the Polish language. Consumers may try, or not, to give them some meaning. The PPO pointed out that it is very often in the market of pharmaceuticals that endings of signs or whole signs refer to the active substances. However, the average recipient has no knowledge of chemistry and pharmacy. Therefore, one may not know what components produce the substance or whether they are derivatives, and how it translates on the naming. The similarity of words is all, what is available to consumers and on such basis, they have to decide on the origin of goods. A large part of products listed in both lists of goods are those that are available without any prescription, and thus the support of pharmacist during its purchase cannot always be assumed. These products are also offered in hypermarkets and drugstores, where you cannot always count on the help of a sales assistant. But even if the pharmacist may give an advice on the composition of a product, it still does not determine the lack of the association between entrepreneurs. The assumption on the association between entrepreneurs should be concluded from minor differences in signs or other indications on the packaging and labeling, and such a situation, while comparing the signs, cannot be presumed, since the mark must indicate the origin of the goods itself.

The complain to the Voivodeship Administrative Court (VAC) in Warsaw was brought by Oceanic S.A., legal successor of Wojciech Soszyński’s trade mark application. The VAC in a judgment of 7 October 2009, case file VI SA/Wa 1176/09, ruled that the risk of misleading the public as to the origin of goods decides whether the two signs are similar. The questions does not concern a personified trader/entrepreneur but it is all about the sign which has always to mark and indicate that the goods originate exclusively from the same trader. The unacceptable misleading of public as to the origin of goods is created by the similarity of goods and the similarity of signs.

Therefore, any doubts should be decided in favor of the proprietor of the trade mark with an earlier priority. This rule is a consequence of the belief that the entrepreneur who, for the same type of goods, chooses a sign that is similar to the trade mark with earlier priority, acts at its own risk and all uncertainty should be decided against him. A comparison of the lists of goods for EUCERIN and OCERIN trade marks indicates that these goods are similar. In the midst of these products are both cosmetics and pharmaceutical preparations of cosmetic and medicinal characteristics.

This judgment is not yet final. A cassation complaint may be filed to the Supreme Administrative Court.
Posted by: Tomasz Rychlicki @ 16.27
Tags: Polish Patent Office, medicinal product, pharmaceutical trade marks, Voivodeship Administrative Court, similarity of signs, average consumer,
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MARQUES does not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this blog. The views are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of MARQUES. Seek professional advice before action on any information included here.

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