Storm brews over TWG Tea logo in HK court

 
TWG used the date 1837 in its sign but the company was started in 2008. -- ST FILE PHOTO

A Hong Kong tea company founded in 1932 saw red when a Singapore competitor opened an outlet in the territory using the same abbreviation, TWG.

Tsit Wing (Hong Kong), which is listed in Singapore, and its subsidiary Tsit Wing International took TWG Tea Company to court, arguing a breach of its trademark.

Last week, a Hong Kong judge agreed with Tsit Wing, holding the Singapore-based firm liable for the breach and the additional claim of "passing off" its business as Tsit Wing's by using a sign containing the abbreviation in its restaurant.

Both parties will return to court tomorrow to hear TWG Tea's submissions regarding Tsit Wing's demands and Deputy High Court judge John Saunders' decision on the damages and other remedies Tsit Wing is seeking.

Background story

'MISLEADING SIGN'

Judge John Saunders had harsh words for TWG Tea for using the date 1837 in its sign, when in fact the company started in 2008.

Company officials explained that 1837 referred to the year when the Chamber of Commerce was founded in Singapore, which was then an important tea trading hub. Its inclusion was meant to celebrate that year, they said.

But Judge Saunders found this was not the "real intention". He said: "There is no doubt that the existence of the date 1837 in TWG Tea's sign has led people to believe that the company was established at that time."

He noted, among other things, that Bloomberg Businessweek had published an online report in October 2011 saying the Singapore-based company was founded in 1837.

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