11 December 2014Trademarks

Time loses Singapore trademark battle

US publisher Time Inc has failed to have the ‘Fortune Times’ trademark declared invalid in Singapore.

Time owns a portfolio of more than 90 magazines published globally, including business magazine Fortune and a current affairs publication with the same name.

It claimed the Chinese bi-monthly financial magazine Fortune Times registered its trademark in bad faith.

Fortune Times was established in 2004 by Li San Zhong. He registered the ‘Fortune Times’ trademark, which features Chinese characters to the left of it, with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in 2011.

Time opposed the registration at the office and sought a declaration of invalidity in 2012.

Time  claimed its trademark was “well-known” under section 8 of the Singapore Trade Marks Act and that the ‘Fortune Times’ trademark diluted its Fortune magazine brand.

Despite Time having trademarks recognised as well-known in India and UK, See Tho Sok Yee, the hearing officer for the case at IPOS, rejected the argument stating that it was not recognised by “most members of the public”.

She also said that Time had failed to provide “sufficient evidence” that the ‘Fortune Times’ trademark “was made in bad faith”.

But the battle may not be over for Time. Yew Kuin Cheah, a local principal at the Singapore office of Baker & McKenzie, said it is open to the publisher to “appeal the decision to the Singapore High Court” because it “is only a decision from the principal assistant registrar of the IPOS”.

“In the meantime, what this means is that the trademark remains on the register and the marks will continue to co-exist in Singapore,” he added.

It is the second time in a month that Time has suffered a trademark defeat. In November, the publisher lost a claim that its ‘Ideal Home’ trademark was infringed by Media 10’s website for the annual Ideal Home Show held in London.

The ‘Ideal Home’ dispute finished with a co-existence agreement—the same way as the ‘Budweiser’ trademark row in 2013. The battle between US-brewery Anheuser-Busch and Czech brewer Budějovický Budvar ended with both companies being allowed to use the trademark in the UK in relation to alcoholic products.

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16 January 2013   The UK Supreme Court has ended a long-running dispute over the Budweiser trademark by confirming that two breweries can use the mark simultaneously in the UK.