Ralph Lauren Moves to Protect ‘POLO’ Trade Marks

International brands are big business and few are more valuable than the polo player logo which appears on the ubiquitous range of Ralph Lauren clothes. In one case, the fashion house came down hard on a businesswoman who tried to register a trade mark in respect of a device which included the word ‘POLO’.

The woman, a polo club member, was engaged in selling T-shirts and similar goods with polo-themed designs on them. The logo that she wished to register, through her company, consisted of an inverted polo mallet followed by the name of the sport in capitals. She argued that it spelt a unique five-letter word, ‘TPOLO’, and thus could not be confused with the Ralph Lauren brand.

After the fashion house objected, however, her application to register the device was rejected by a hearing officer. He found that an average consumer would perceive the logo as showing the word ‘POLO’ with a picture of a polo mallet alongside it. The mallet did not blend with the word and the device would not be seen as spelling the invented and stylised word ‘TPOLO’.

In rejecting her challenge to that decision, the UK Intellectual Property Office pointed to the high degree of conceptual similarity between the logo and the Ralph Lauren marks. It agreed with the hearing officer that what mattered was the likely perception of the average consumer. The woman’s company was directed to contribute £2,000 towards the legal costs incurred by the fashion house.