In the latest installment of a trademark battle that has lasted over 30 years, a New York federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by fashion heavy weight Ralph Lauren against United States Polo Association Inc. for allegedly refusing to abide by a 2003 settlement governing the use of Ralph Lauren’ polo-player trademark. According to the judge, the case belongs in arbitration.
The feud between the USPA and Ralph Lauren over marks depicting polo players goes back to 1984, when a predecessor to the Polo Association won a declaratory judgment against Ralph Lauren that allowed the sporting organization to produce licensed goods as long as they didn’t cause confusion with Ralph Lauren’s famous Polo brand. The court noted that
“there are many ways in which the sport of polo and equestrian figures can be depicted and can be utilized even on wearing apparel and other products in general without infringing upon Polo Ralph Lauren’s trademarks.”
The current lawsuit relates to a 2003 settlement which established that the solid silhouette version of the two-horseman logo infringes Polo Ralph Lauren’s trademark, but outlined versions of the logo with more detail and the initials “USPA” do not. This essentially allows USPA to sell clothes, leather goods and watches with the word “polo” on it, but only if company prominently displays that the products are not associated with the Ralph Lauren brand. Polo Ralph Lauren alleges that UPSA is not abiding by the terms of this settlement.
The companies were most recently back in the courtroom in 2012 when a Manhattan court confirmed that the polo association could be barred from using a “double horseman” logo on its fragrances because it was too similar to trademarks owned by the Ralph Lauren.
This Sunday we’ll see if Ralph Lauren has won on the catwalk as well as off, as he shows his Spring/Summer 2015 collection at New York Fashion week.