The United States Polo Association (USPA) can go ahead and register a black-and-white trademark featuring two polo players and the letters USPA on eyewear being sold here after the High Court dismissed an appeal by fashion brand Polo Ralph Lauren to block it.
Ralph Lauren had claimed that USPA's logo was similar to its own single player mark, registered here in 1996. USPA, polo's American governing body, ventured into selling merchandise and registered the mark in 2012 as it intended to enter the eyewear market here.
US retailer Ralph Lauren, filed a notice of opposition when USPA tried to register for a trademark under the eyewear category.
Last June, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) ruled in USPA's favour, in a case heard by intellectual property adjudicator, Professor Ng-Loy Wee Loon. Ralph Lauren appealed against the ruling.
In court documents obtained by The Straits Times yesterday, Justice Lee Seiu Kin, in the appeal, noted that the the sole basis for Ralph Lauren's case was the similarity of the marks and the likelihood of confusion on the part of the public.
But Justice Lee found, in contrast, a "low degree of similarity between the trademarks, particularly in respect of visual similarity and the greater attention that the average consumer is likely to pay when purchasing eyewear". He said: "I find that there exists no likelihood of confusion on the part of the public."
Prof Ng-Loy had concluded that eyewear is usually bought through salesmen and is a type of goods that commands a "higher degree of fastidiousness" on the part of the consumer.
Ralph Lauren's lawyers had argued in their appeal that a "high degree of care" is exercised with regard to the lenses and the adjustment of the nose pad, rather than to the frame bearing the trademark.
But Justice Lee did not buy their argument. He said he did not think that the care exercised would be "restricted only to the lenses and the nose pad".
It is actually "highly personal and is not something that would be purchased in a hurry but rather, would involve a high level of attention being paid by the consumer".
"The eyewear is likely to be purchased on a myriad of factors, including not just comfort but also its appearance, and any purchase would likely entail a detailed visual inspection of the eyewear," he said.
Polo Ralph Lauren's lawyer, Mr Sukumar Karuppiah from Ravindran Associates, told The Straits Times he would report the judgment to his client and await further instructions.
USPA's lawyer, Mr Prithipal Singh from Miranda Law LLP, said: "The decision is very sound and we are happy with the outcome."