Has Ralph Gone Too Far? Have Trademark Rights Gone Too Far?

I'm all for protecting brands; they're an asset and a consumer aid. But really I think this goes way too far. I live in polo country – you know real country with horses and pastures, and polo matches. The US Polo Association started in 1890 to promote the sport. Ralph Lauren opened a men's store in 1967. He sold ties of his own design under the label, "Polo." Norman Hilton backed Lauren and eventually Lauren bought the "Polo" name from him. I understand that the "Polo" brand carries a lot of clout – rich well dressed healthy people enjoying life – and it's quite valuable and deserving of protection. But it doesn't seem right that the USPA can't use the mark because the court found that the mark of the double horseman and the word "Polo" on its products would confuse consumers. The result is that Ralph Lauren essentially has a monopoly on the mark – which is pretty contrary to what I understood as the policy behind trademark law – balancing the burden of consumer confusion with the benefit of free competition. The word "polo" is in many ways just a generic term – it's the name of a sport. I would think a fairer decision would make Ralph Lauren always use "Ralph Lauren" in conjunction with his "Polo" line and make the USPA always use "USPA" in conjunction with their "Polo" line.

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