Battle Of The Polos

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ralph lauren polo vs us polo association

Nature is full of fashion. Fashion is found all around us and in every living being, including plants. Some plants fashion their flowers so artistically that there is no way the insects can resist them. Animals show their fashion preferences through their feathers, skin and hair shapes and colours. Who doesn’t appreciate the colourfully fashioned peacock’s tail? One species of the bird of paradise compete with another in displaying its fashionable tail and tuft or crest. Haven’t we seen one species of fish having more vibrant body colours and fin shape than another in the same waters?  And people had lived in fashion and loved to fashion themselves even before they wore clothes.

Fashion, especially in clothes, is a universe in itself, ever changing and growing but seeming to stay intact!

Polo Ralph Lauren is one of the brightest stars in the apparel Fashion cosmos. More people know ‘polo’ as a clothing giant than as an out-door game played by players mounted on horseback driving a ball with stick like bats called ‘mallets’ into the opponent’s goal.

Just ask a crowd of people if they know what ‘polo’ is, and pat comes the answer from 7 out of 10 that they do… one on them or one in their wardrobe. They undoubtedly mean a T-shirt or some other item of clothing with the logo of a polo player on a horse about to hit the ball on the ground with his mallet. Such is the craze the people have about Polo Ralph Lauren.

The story of how Polo Ralph Lauren, the fashion powerhouse originated in the US, has got into the present position is so fascinating that one can find thousands of articles written on it on Google search.

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The History

Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz), a salesman in a small garment shop, began his Empire with a small collection of neckties and with a motto: quality and honesty. And once he made a niche in the clothing line, the rest became history, and now within 44 years, he has become the founder and CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation, a multi-billion dollar industry. His vision and his sincere efforts in up keeping the motto paid off.

When the corporation started venturing into other fields, the word Polo was dropped to show the difference between the fashion market and the other undertakings, but the original Polo line remained as the flagship brand of the company, show-casing the loyalty to the logo that took the empire to its great heights, with 9000 locations, plus 379 Ralph Lauren outlets, along with Club Monaco and Rugby retail stores, worldwide!

“Polo makes women to play, too.” The Polo logo first appeared on the cuffs of the women’s suits which were fashioned in men’s style in about 1969 and stayed put all these years even on men’s wear.

The interesting fact is that the logo of Polo Ralph Lauren is more popular than the visionary that created it.  As is the case with most other fascinating stories of success, our Polo story also has had some frictions with its rivals who have a similar logo, a polo player on horseback with a mallet in his hand, for their products.

The Battle

One such ‘friction’ was with the United States Polo Association, the governing body for the sport of polo in the United States, which also markets clothing and perfume products. The USPA filed a trademark infringement case against Polo Ralph Lauren on the use of the logo. In the legal battle, the fashion power-house came out victorious as the judge who tried this case ruled that the Association’s logo has two horsemen and that makes it different from the Polo Ralph Lauren’s single horseman logo.

We thought it hardly mattered if something was a little to the right or a little to the left, but this case that came to light in South Africa where a South African national level clothing manufacturer using a similar logo, a single man on horseback, proved us wrong.

In this case, our giant has lost against the local producer, like in the fight between David and Goliath. The judge’s ruling in this case was that the horse in the polo logo of the South Africa products was a little to the right and the Polo Ralph Lauren’s was a little to the left, which might not be any confusion to the customers, and furthermore, ordered Polo Ralph Lauren not to sell their products, except perfumes, in South Africa! As a result, the unsuspecting local people and the tourists alike in cities around South Africa happily buy these local Polo products believing that they are of the USA’s Polo Ralph Lauren products sold at much lower prices.

And there were these critics right in the USA who made a lot of hue and cry over the presence of the Polo Logo on the blazers made by Polo RL for the US Olympic players representing the States at the Olympics. The critics did not want the Polo logo on those blazers and they did not want the clothes to be made in China. Though Polo RL didn’t have to remove the logo from the blazers and other clothing of the players, it did have to make a promise to have the future Olympic apparel made in the States, not in any sweat shop in any of the Asian countries.

And some critics went up to demanding, out of malice or twisted humour, that as the Polo Ralph Lauren fashion clothes and other fashion items, including perfumes, are luxury products meant for people with lots of money and those who buy and wear them are either rich or feel rich, the Polo logo be replaced with a ‘bag of money’.

Though such incidents are few and, in most cases, negligible, they do point out the fact that logo designing, one of the most important aspects of a product’s success in a competitive market, is more crucial than it’s thought to be …even for a Fashion trend setter like our Polo Ralph Lauren!

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