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Polo Ralph Lauren Wins Fragrance Case

Federal judge ruled that the U.S. Polo Association's horse-and-rider symbol on fragrance is likely to cause "consumer confusion."

Score one for Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

A New York federal judge ruled Friday that the U.S. Polo Association cannot use a horse-and-rider symbol evocative of Polo’s famed logo in conjunction with the word “polo” to market its fragrances.

The USPA claimed that Ralph Lauren was “attempting to monopolize the depiction of the sport of polo,” by preventing it from using its “double horseman mark” on its recently launched fragrance products, according to the original lawsuit filed Nov. 13 in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court.

After deliberation, Judge Robert Sweet denied the USPA’s request for a declaratory judgment, citing that the use of the double horseman image with the word “polo” infringes on Ralph Lauren’s “substantive trademark rights” as it would likely cause “consumer confusion.”

As a result, the court granted L’Oréal USA Inc., Ralph Lauren’s fragrance licensee, a permanent injunction and ordered that all of the plaintiff’s claims be dropped.

“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,” wrote Judge Sweet in his opinion. “Nonetheless, to the extent the USPA parties use ‘polo’ in conjunction with the double horsemen mark on fragrances, this is another matter.”

“United States Polo Association and USPA Properties Inc. are disappointed by Judge Sweet’s decision,” said USPA Properties Inc. president and chief executive officer David Cummings, who was “surprised” that the judge “ignored” a 2006 ruling that the double horseman image accompanied by the USPA mark did not constitute infringement in the context of the apparel market. “We are currently researching our options and are considering appealing this decision.”