Thursday, 11 October 2012
Who Owns Rugby
England rugby jersey or Wales rugby shirt, the only fashion faux pas they could make was to wear the collar up or down! Well, the times they are a changing as a host of “rugby leisure” brands dip their feet in the rugby market and piggy back in on the values of rugby that have taken generations to create. The glaringly obvious one is Ralph Lauren, but more on them in due course. There are some obvious link ups between rugby and fashion – the Benetton factory in the town of Treviso, or French flair combined with the genius of Serge Blanco. Fashion from a rugby perspective – how many people does that cover? Rugby is getting more and more global, but even in the home nations, it is a minority sport. Reg Clark, owner of old school fashion and retro rugby brand RhinoGB, said “If it will be a niche market of real rugby fans and not the population at large, so be it. We don’t want to ditch quality for quantity for the sake of profit. Rhino is a brand over 30 years in the making and we are not going to abandon our values”. “The preppie/ivy league look has been overdone and is very un-rugby” says Clark. The approach he is referring to of course is the random rugby brand generator – Polo shirt + place name + some numbers + rugby = fashion. Columbus Rugby 1492 for example – with so many brands following this formula, it beggars the question – who owns the rights to rugby? Perhaps Rugby school? The town of Rugby? The RFU? The IRB? The first person to copyright “rugby”? So now we get to the elephant in the room. Ralph Lauren famously tried to copyright rugby as part of their fashion brand RL Rugby, and has been scaring off anyone who they think might be encroaching on their rights to the use of the word “rugby” on leisurewear. They have also pursued a similar tack in relation to the use of the polo logo and infamously prevented the US Polo national governing body from using a polo player on a horse logo on their apparel! One man who knows all about the fight to own rugby is American James Carlberg of LiquidRugby.com. Carlberg started printing rugby tees back in the eighties and had built a successful business that was experiencing rapid growth as rugby grew in popularity in the States. Things were going so well that a number of apparel reps had been in touch about getting into the larger department stores. His legal struggles brought this to a halt. Thankfully Carlberg stuck it out and six years later won his case convincingly against Ralph Lauren. “I’m an entrepreneur and I believe in the American Dream. No one should be able to tell you what you can or can’t sell and who you can or can’t sell to” said James. In true rugby spirit, James has some advice for those wishing to enter this field “If you love our sport the way I do and you have a product or brand you believe in, fight for it”.
Posted by Steve Munford at 12:08