Since 15 April 2016 new rules for registering trade marks have started to apply, which consist in a simplified examination of an application by the Polish Patent Office (PPO). So far, the PPO examined whether there are no obstacles to register, that is, whether the so-named absolute grounds do not exist, namely, above all, all the circumstances that prevent a designation to function as a trade mark, for example, its descriptiveness. Moreover, the PPO conducted ex officio examination of the so-named relative obstacles, that is, it examined earlier national and Community trade marks in terms of their similarity to a trade mark applied to be registered. That resulted in a protracted registering process of trade marks in Poland, as well as in numerous refusals to grant protection, even in a situation where owners of earlier trade marks did not find violations of their own interests as a result of registering later trade marks.
Under the new system, the PPO examines similarities to earlier rights only in the event when the owner of that right files an opposition. That means that the PPO examines ex officio only the absolute obstacles. The liability for identifying colliding applications and preventing their registration rests currently on the owners of earlier rights. No mechanisms are provided that could facilitate the owners to learn about the necessity to file an opposition. For this purpose, it is necessary to monitor the PPO electronic database and the PPO Bulletin.
The changes are aimed to increase the efficiency of proceedings, i.e., above all, to significantly shorten the trademark registration process, as well as make refusals to register a trade mark because of earlier rights, contingent on decisions of the owners of those rights. Those changes are meant to make the procedure to register a national trade mark more like the procedure that applies to EU trade marks, as well as the procedures applicable in other EU countries.