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Trade mark registration news: Polo Association raises the mallet

Thursday June 2, 2011 at 3:01pm
Ralph Lauren's recent battle with The US Polo Association is a true demonstration of the value of trademark registration.

Many will recognise Ralph Lauren's trademark polo logo - the polo player embroidered or printed on all clothing, perfumes and other products that Ralph Lauren is known for all over the world. Ralph Lauren has a trademark registration for it too - and it licences its brand to companies such as L'Oreal, for its fragrances.

In steps the US Polo Association (USPA). Not so many of us are familiar with it - the Association does have a very specific remit, after all, and Polo is a fairly specialised sport. That specific remit, however is broadening as the USPA wants to bring out its own range of fragrances - and in doing so, came up against the Polo Player trademark registration.

In November the USPA sued Ralph Lauren saying that they were "attempting to monetize the depiction of the sport of polo."

The claim was slapped down by a New York Judge, saying:

"There is...clearly room in our vast society for both the USPA parties and the PRL [Polo Ralph Lauren] parties to engage in licensing activities that do not conflict with one another, and nothing contained in this opinion should be construed as precluding such activities. Nonetheless, to the extent the USPA parties use 'polo' in conjunction with the double horsemen mark on fragrances, this is another matter."

The risk was that the duplication would cause confusion among customers - and this is the power of a trademark registration, which doesn't just protect for identical logos and words, but also for any that might cause confusion.

Are the logos confusing? Judge for yourself! (right)

USPA CEO, Mr David Cummings, said that they wanted to appeal the decision - but after the initial judgment they will be on the back foot. Meanwhile, fashion trumps field sports in the trademark world.
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