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Court of Appeals Affirms Ruling Against Polo Ralph Lauren

The battle over polo ponies has ended. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed an earlier ruling in favor of the United States...

The battle over polo ponies has ended.

This story first appeared in the March 6, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed an earlier ruling in favor of the United States Polo Association in a long-standing fight with Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. over use of a polo player trademark on Tuesday.

Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. did not return calls for comment. David Cummings, president and chief executive officer of USPA Properties, said the decision is “another victory” for the association, and it should be the “final chapter in a very long book.”

The Appeals Court verdict is the latest in a string of back and forth litigation between the sporting association and Polo Ralph Lauren that dates back many years. The apparel manufacturer filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the USPA and Jordache in 2000 over the use of four mounted horsemen logos.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled in October 2005 that the USPA and Jordache had the right to use three of the logos in question in the lawsuit filed in 2000. At the time of the ruling Polo Ralph Lauren said the judge ruled that three of the marks were dissimilar to its own, and one infringed. The company subsequently filed the appeal it lost this week.

Last fall the USPA launched a misses’ denim collection featuring a horse and rider logo. Court documents describe the logos in question as “the double horsemen,” variations of two mounted horsemen either in silhouette or outlined.

In its ruling, the court said logo contentions between the two parties actually dates to the early Eighties when the USPA first launched branded clothing. According to court documents, Polo Ralph Lauren obtained a separate and unrelated judgment in 1984 against the USPA for marks it was using then, but the judgment made clear that the association could use a logo of a mounted polo player as long as it was distinctive from Polo Ralph Lauren’s.