Marking of goods with a name of a place other than the place of production does not mislead an attentive consumer?

Such a conclusion was reached by the Appeals Court in Białystok who in the second instance was settling the dispute between producers of mineral water. One of them placed geographic designation on the label of his water despite the fact that the water distributed by him was coming from a place approximately 50 km away from the place indicated on a bottle. Information about the place of origin of water was given on the label but in a less prominent place.

The lawsuit was brought by a competing entrepreneur who was seeking an injunction banning the bottled water from being marketed with the existing name using a specified name of a place in advertising.

In the opinion of the plaintiff, the water drawn in the specified place is characterized by high quality and the use of its name has associations as to the place of its origin while the defendant draws water from an intake located in another place about 50 kms away. The plaintiff also noted that bottles of mineral water had been marked by the defendant with false geographic designation, misleading consumers and encouraging them to buy products of the defendant.

The Appeals Court in Białystok did not concur with the Plaintiff’s opinion citing the model of an average consumer which is applied when assessing conditions of an act of unfair competition under article 10 of the unfair competition act. The court found that an average consumer was not a person poorly educated, unaware, unaccustomed to analyzing messages of a producer, guided by intuition and making decisions based on irrational and subjective criteria.

In the opinion of the court, the right model of a consumer, in accordance with the European and domestic law, is solely the model assuming that a consumer is an attentive customer, reasonable, rational and aware of his/her choices who analyzes messages of a producer paying special attention to conformity with criteria important to a given consumer.

The court found that the use of a name of a strange place for marking goods produced in another place would not result in misleading consumers if on a product the place of its intake or production was clearly indicated, and the size, shape and label of the wrapping was significantly different from the wrapping of a competing product.

 

  • Judgment of the Appeals Court in Białystok of 19th March 2015, file reference number I ACa 923/14

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