Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thai Supreme Court plays Polo

Thailand's Supreme Court has resolved a long running battle between 2 brands incorporating the word POLO. This dispute has been played out in many places.

Young Sangyo Co Ltd owns the BEVERLY HILLS POLO CLUB (and polo player device) mark which they tried to register in Thailand. It was rejected due to various marks including several Ralph Lauren marks and the Santa Barbara Polo & Racket Club mark. Young Sangyo appealed to the Board of Trademarks and the IP/IT Court, then finally the Supreme Court.
The Thai Supreme Court found that the lower decisions all erred. Although the marks both included the word 'polo', the overall appearance and pronunciation was not confusingly similar. There were too many other elements. Beverley Hills and Club however were disclaimed.  Young Sangyo proved that it had used and advertised the mark in numerous countries without any confusion since 2001.

In one sense this seems right, as the marks do differ. But the effect of this is to make the word Polo less distinctive. Which is curious given that Ralph Lauren's POLO mark is registered too. The problems surrounding the distinctiveness of Polo and the use bv a variety of users will no doubt continue.

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