The fame or renown of a trademark is not a concept defined in Polish or EU law. The courts try to clarify this notion by pointing to the criteria that must be met for a mark to be regarded as renowned. Although these criteria are already well-established in the EU case law, the Polish courts sometimes add new requirements.
Trademark proprietors try to promote their brands so they become known and recognisable among customers, achieving greater distinctiveness and even repute. A famous brand is the dream of every trademark owner. But sometimes exceptional popularity proves damaging to the brand. Then the trademark can become eroded or genericised.
Some categories of goods, such as agricultural produce, foods and spirits, are valued by customers primarily because of the exceptional natural conditions of their town, region or country of origin, or because of their traditional production methods. Authorised producers use geographical indications for their products to underline this uniqueness.
Alongside the trademark, the label of a product must also identify the product itself, so that consumers know what type of product they are being offered. But in the European Union alone, there may be a dozen or more legal definitions of certain alcoholic beverages, such as cider or perry. This means that the qualitative requirements differ across various member states, presenting a huge challenge for producers, particularly when the EU policy agenda has taken up the fight against double standards for foods offered in different parts of the EU.
Commercial exploitation of the attributes of well-known, admired or distinguished persons can bring a product positive associations, build recognition, and reinforce popularity. It is a guarantee of the highest quality and reliable origin. Names and images of long-dead historical figures in particular are often found on labels and in ads for alcoholic beverages. Sobieski, Chrobry, Poniatowski, Jagiełło, Kazimierz Wielki and Pułaski gaze at tipplers from bars and store shelves, along with Chopin, Ogiński and Amundsen. Can the use of attributes of a third party, including someone who is no longer alive, constitute an infringement of personal rights, and if so, whose? And what are the legal consequences? The answers are not always obvious.
Alcoholic beverages with counterfeit trademarks are just part of the fraudulent alcoholic beverages market. Fraud can also mean giving false information about a product’s properties. Penal sanctions can be imposed on perpetrators of both types.