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This time, judge sides with Ralph Lauren in trademark dispute

Any California resident who thinks the fashion industry is pure frivolity might need to update his or her thinking.

The truth is, there is quite a bit of money to be made in creating clothing, fragrances, cosmetics and accessories that people like and want to buy. Accordingly, companies that have successfully built a brand and enjoy a good reputation among the shopping public can be quite aggressive about protecting their brand and image from competitors.

That explains why Ralph Lauren recently sued U.S. Polo Association, a lower-end maker of clothing and accessories.

Previous court decisions have held that U.S. Polo Association can use its horseman logo -- a logo Ralph Lauren contends is too close to its own famous running polo pony logo -- in certain circumstances and with certain restrictions, such as running the acronym "U.S.P.A." directly beneath the logo so that customers are not confused about what they are buying.

This time, Ralph Lauren sued over U.S. Polo Association's use of its horseman logo on bottles of fragrance, claiming that the overall effect was too similar to Ralph Lauren's cologne and perfume. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed, concurring with Ralph Lauren that there was too much risk of consumer confision, and held that U.S. Polo Association had to discontinue the practice.

Trademark disputes like this show how seriously companies and individuals in the fashion industry take what they do -- and they should. In our office, we believe that creative, talented individuals and companies deserve to protect their creations and ought to be able to make a reasonable profit from them.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "In horseman logo battle, Ralph Lauren prevails at 2nd Circuit," Erin Geiger Smith, Feb. 11, 2013

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