Dispute over Polo trademark involving Ralph Lauren’s Polo logo rears its head again

The United States Polo Association (USPA) Logo. Picture: Supplied

The United States Polo Association (USPA) Logo. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 13, 2022


Cape Town - Fears that aspiring fashionistas may be confused by the direction faced by a polo horse and its mallet-swinging rider have reared their head again nearly nine months after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled on the trademark dispute.

The matter goes back to 2018 when LA Brands, which owns Polo SA, and the US Polo Association (USPA), the governing body of Polo in the US, selling clothing that offers “a piece of the sport of polo” and marketed locally by Stable Brands, went to court.

LA Group struck first when it applied to the high court for an interdict to restrain Stable Brands from infringing its Polo word and Polo Pony and Player device trade marks.

LA Group subsequently withdrew that application, but Stable Brands launched a counter-application for the removal of all 46 of LA Group’s trademarks from the trademark register, arguing that it is very easy to confuse Polo SA with a pony facing right and Ralph Lauren’s Polo with a pony facing left.

Stable Brands won the suit and the high court ordered the removal of all 46 of the LA Group’s trademarks from the Register of TradeMarks. But February’s SCA judgment overturned the high court’s order.

Since that landmark ruling, both sides have disagreed about exactly what the SCA ruling meant.

In August, LA Group managing director brands Mark Oliver released a statement to customers which said in part that Polo South Africa was delighted that its Polo trademarks had been recognised by the SCA.

Oliver said: “We assure you that we will do whatever is required to protect and secure the goodwill and reputation associated with our Polo brand.”

This statement rubbed USPA the wrong way and Stable Brands spokesperson Andrew Robinson this week said that in fact the dispute with LA Group was not over and that the SCA judgment was only about the cancellation of 46 of LA Group’s trademarks.

Robinson said that Stable Brands and USPA had launched an application to the high court in Cape Town due to be heard in November accusing LA Group of unfair competition.

The United States Polo Association (USPA) Logo
The logo used by LA Group

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