Supreme court of appeal/constitutional court judgment

Published Oct 14, 2022


It has come to the attention of the United States Polo Association and its subsidiaries that South Africa-based LA Group has circulated statements to the retail industry regarding the nature and effect of the South Africa Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) judgment in the continued dispute between the United States Polo Association (“USPA”) and Stable Brands, on the one hand, and LA Group, on the other, in respect of the use of USPA’s trade marks. Stable Brands is USPA’s South Africa distributor of the sport-inspired lifestyle brand U.S. Polo Assn. in South Africa.

We wish to correct some of the misrepresentations made in that circular.

Firstly, whilst the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) did, in large part, uphold LA Group’s appeal, it was not entirely successful in that appeal and several of LA Group’s trade marks were cancelled or partially cancelled.

Secondly, despite what is claimed by LA Group, the Constitutional Court did not discuss the merits of LA Group’s claims to its trade marks at all and simply dismissed Stable Brands’ application for leave to appeal on the basis that the Constitutional Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Thirdly, USPA was not a party to those legal proceedings and no challenge by USPA to LA Group’s trade marks has been dismissed. In those proceedings, the challenges to LA Group’s trade marks were by Stable Brands, That application was partially dismissed. USPA has, in terms of a separate application, applied to cancel several of LA Group’s trade marks. That separate application is yet to be determined by the courts, but will likely be heard by the High Court in the next year.

Lastly, but importantly, USPA’s trade marks U.S. POLO ASSOCIATION and the Double Horsemen logo (right) continue to be registered in South Africa. There is no legal restraint on the sale of USPA branded goods in South Africa and, despite what LA Group may claim, the SCA judgment does not affect the continued sale of such products in South Africa, as distributed by Stable Brands.

Insofar as LA Group has indicated that it intends to take action against resellers of USPA branded goods, we wish to remind the trade that LA Group withdrew its application for an interdict that sought to prevent the sale of USPA goods in South Africa in 2018, and it has yet to institute any other proceedings to prevent the sale of USPA branded goods in South Africa. Any such further proceedings that it may elect to institute in future will be opposed.

“U.S. Polo Assn. is the only authentic and official brand of the United States Polo Association”, noted J. Michael Prince, president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing Inc., a subsidiary of the USPA and the company that manages and oversees the U.S. Polo Assn. brand. “This global, sport- inspired brand spans 190 countries worldwide and represents the sport of polo while supporting and sponsoring numerous sports and philanthropic programs to benefit the people of Africa and bring awareness to this historic sport.”

The United States Polo Association (USPA) Logo verses the logo used by LA Group

Stable Brands (Pty) Ltd, a proudly South African company, has experience working with various international apparel brands. It has the exclusive distribution rights of the U.S. Polo Assn. brand in South Africa. Stable Brands ensures that the U.S. Polo Assn. brand is well positioned in the South African market to be a lifestyle brand of choice.

U.S. Polo Assn. is the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA), the nonprofit governing body for the sport of polo in the United States and one of the oldest sports governing bodies, having been founded in 1890. With a multi-billion-dollar global footprint and worldwide distribution through some 1,200 U.S. Polo Assn. retail stores and thousands of department stores as well as sporting goods channels, independent retailers and e-commerce, U.S. Polo Assn. offers apparel for men, women, and children, as well as accessories and footwear in 190 countries worldwide. Today, U.S. Polo Assn. is ranked the 28th largest licensor in the world and within the top five sports licensors, according to License Global’s 2022 list of “Top Global Licensors.”