Ralph Lauren Polo vs. Polo SA

In South Africa, the local company L.A Group Ltd owns the trademarked clothing brand ‘Polo’, which was founded in 1976. This brand is almost identical to the internationally recognised American brand ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’, which was established prior to the South African brand in 1967.

What is most interesting is the striking similarity between the brands. Upon inspection, the only distinguishing factor between the products sold by Polo SA and Ralph Lauren Polo is the inclusion of the mark ‘Ralph Lauren’ before the word Polo on the American products, a slight difference in the Polo player device on the clothing and the fact that the South African polo horse faces right while the US polo horse faces left.

As many have consumers travelling to South Africa have asked before, the reason Polo South Africa is able to sell their products within the country despite the similarity of the products is that Polo South Africa established Polo as their own brand in South Africa before Ralph Lauren tried to sell their products in South Africa. Upon registering the trademark L.A Group then acquired the branding rights in South Africa. This has meant that Ralph Lauren Polo have been prevented from selling their products in the country, giving L.A Group Ltd exclusive intellectual property rights within this jurisdiction. Although previously the US Company tried to reclaim the mark in 1977 but failed under the old South African law, which recognized only geographical rights.

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