Lesson from the wonton noodles trademark case in Singapore

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Lesson from the wonton noodles trademark case in Singapore

In 2018, an opposition has been filed to a trademark application by sisters Ng Mui Hong and Ng Mei Ling for their restaurant Char Siew Wantan Mee.

Ng Mui Hong and Ng Mei Ling are the daughters of the late Ng Ba Eng, who ran the Dunman Road Food Centre hawker stall Eng’s wonton noodles.

Ng Ba Eng died of a sudden heart attack in 2013. However, even after death, his reputation through decades of selling pork dumpling noodles is still recognized every day by his loyal customers.

One month after that, the Ng sisters opened their own wonton noodles restaurant following their father’s path.

Desmond Ng is the brother of Ng Mui Hong and Ng Mei Ling. Desmond Ng had previously formed a business partnership with Pauline New.

Jason Sim is Pauline New’s husband. He invested a fortune in the wonton noodle business of the late father Eng due to the connection with Mr. Desmond, allowing it to expand and relocate to 287 Tanjong Katong Road in 2012. Eng’s Noodles House was also renamed. However, after a bad fallout, Eng’s Noodles House ceased to exist, and shut down in 2018.

Desmond joined their sister’s restaurant after the bad breakup with Ms. Pauline New and her husband and started working there.

Hearing the news, after some time, Ms. Pauline New accused Desmond and his sisters of conspiring to “injure” the company by setting up a competing restaurant across the road at 248 Tanjong Katong Road called Eng’s Char Siew Wantan Mee, along with other claims.

In the IP matter, Pauline New opposed the trademark application filed by sisters Ng Mui Hong and Ng Mei Ling for their eatery Char Siew Wantan Mee.

The two Ng sisters, countered the accusation by filing a counterclaim that Ms New and her husband had “stolen the family business”. 

Judgment

Justice Thean ruled in a 72-page decision that the actions of Desmond and his sisters were not carried out as a result of any agreement between the defendants. The judge also determined that Ms New had failed to establish the defendant’s intent to cause harm to the company.

Ms. Ng Mui Hong registered a sole proprietorship and a composite mark over Eng’s logo in 2017. Ms. New speculated that this was part of the plot to damage her business. Justice Thean agreed that it was partly a contingency plan in case Eng’s Noodles House went out of business.

In their counterclaim against Ms. New, the two Ng sisters claimed ownership of their late father’s noodles business’s goodwill or customer loyalty, but the judge found that they were unable to prove this ownership.

Expert opinions

On the matter of inheritance, the brothers and sisters may get passed down the fortune, the name and the ownership of the restaurants. However, does the recognition also get passed down like that?

This is a matter of Intellectual Property. Because when the father is dead, does the customers retain 100% loyal to his business and to his sons and daughters? Highly unlikely.

According to Melvin Pang, litigation director at Amica Law in Singapore, the ruling in the wonton noodles hawker stall family business affirms Singapore’s prevailing hard-line approach to goodwill.

“The soft-line approach recognizes that in today’s commercial landscape, goodwill can cross borders. It remains consistent with the definition of goodwill as an ‘attractive force that brings in custom,’ as a significant reputation even in the absence of business activity is more than capable of attracting customers.”

*** Other Articles***

– You could visit here to see Procedure of Singapore Trademark Registration.

– You could visit here to check the required documents for filing trademark in Singapore

– You can also check the Fee of Trademark In Singapore here.

–  You could check how to register trademark in Singapore here.

Contact AAA IPRIGHT: Email: info@aaaipright.com

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