Mallets clash in the courts over who owns the right to the use of polo player branding
Australian company, Club Polo Clothing, ride off against US Giant, Polo/Lauren, in an international trademark battle
Club Polo Clothing, a popular Australian polo clothing company, are fighting a court battle against Polo/Lauren for the right to continue to use and trademark their polo player logo.
Club Polo’s clothing range is very popular among the Australian polo community. The business is operated out of a modest shop-front in the small town of Yass, in the New South Wales southern tablelands. However, for the past four years, Australian businesswomen and co-owners of Club Polo Clothing, Megan Philip and Rowena Sylvester, have fought to keep the 20-year old clothing business alive because of a court action being taken against their company by US-based Polo/Lauren. The trouble first started in October 2008, when Ms Philip lodged an application to trademark her logo with IP Australia, the Australian government agency that administers intellectual property rights.
Last week, Club Polo faced a legal battle against the polo and clothing giants, Polo/Lauren to not only allow them to use the logo and image, but also to continue trading as Club Polo Clothing.
The Club Polo logo, which is embroidered onto its range of clothing, depicts a polo player astride a galloping horse with the initials C and P either side. However, US-owned Polo/Lauren, a subsidiary of the Ralph Lauren brand, owns the copyright in Australia for its famous logo of a polo player holding a mallet, while astride a galloping pony. Polo/Lauren argue that the Club Polo logo is too similar to their logo and will confuse customers.
Ms Philip designed the logo herself 16 years ago and says it seemed obvious to put a polo horse and sticks on a range of clothing that had been specifically designed for polo enthusiasts and horse lovers, especially considering that at the time, the business involved selling its products direct to customers at polo tournaments around NSW and Victoria. “Since we started using our logo, for 16 years there apparently hasn’t been any cause for confusion and no one has brought our logo to their attention. But it is interesting that they (Polo/Lauren) only became concerned about us when we applied to lodge our trademark.”