In the latest judgement in the battle between two “polo” brand retailers in South Africa, fashion brand LA Group has lost a significant legal battle against the U.S. Polo Assn. brand through its exclusive licensee for South Africa, Stable Brands.
After the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria, ordered that over 40 registered trademarks in the name of LA Group be canceled and expunged from the trademark register in South Africa, LA Group filed a notice of application for leave to appeal the judgment and order on Dec. 2, 2019. The application for leave to appeal was heard on Feb. 20, 2020, and was dismissed in its entirety.
In the original comprehensive judgment issued Nov. 29, 2019, the judge made some notable remarks with respect to the word “polo,” finding that it is non-distinctive in a trademark sense. The court also held that, in some instances, LA Group failed to provide clear and compelling evidence of use or an intention to use certain of its trademarks in South Africa.
The full determination can be read here.
“The dismissal of LA Group’s application for leave to appeal reinforces the strength of the original judgment and order and aids the continued growth of the U.S. POLO ASSN. brand in the region,” according to J. Michael Prince, president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing (USPAGL). “We look forward to bringing new and exciting designs to the marketplace and to educating the South African people about the authentic connection between the U.S. POLO ASSN. brand and the exciting sport of polo.”
The iconic U.S. POLO ASSN. brand’s trendy apparel and other merchandise has been sold in South Africa for many years, and in 2018 USPA partnered with Stable Brands to increase its presence. USPA has registered trademarks dating back to 2007 in South Africa, and has the right to use those trademarks in commerce, despite the strenuous efforts and attempts of LA Group to claim otherwise and to block USPA’s brand from being offered to the South African market.