Department store giant Wing On is 'doomed to fail' in its attempt to sue a small family business for using the same name, a judge said yesterday. Deputy Judge Li Zong-er lashed out at Wing On International Holdings and its Wing On Property Management for bringing a 'frivolous and vexatious' action. Warning that he could have dismissed the suit outright, Deputy Judge Li said he would give the plaintiffs a chance to consider dropping the case. Wing On International Holdings could not be reached for comment on the ruling yesterday. In a written judgment, Deputy Judge Li refused to accept the plaintiffs' request for a summary judgment, in which a defendant is not permitted to defend the action. The Court of First Instance judge said the plaintiffs could not establish, without trial, a right to exclude a four-member family in North Point from using the name Wing On. The plaintiffs were applying for orders, including an injunction and damages, against the family of Ho Lun-chu for alleged trademark infringement. However, Deputy Judge Li suspected that the plaintiffs were after legal costs, which they had previously put at $82,000. Wing On Holdings, a listed company on the stock exchange, is the registered owner of the trademark 'Wing On' and Wing On Property Management is a registered user of the trademark. Mr Ho and his family have been running their estate agency on Java Road, North Point, in the name of Wing On Property Agent Co since December 1989. The Ho family's business is licensed with the Estate Agents Authority, while Wing On Property Management is not involved in estate agency work. 'It's beyond belief that the defendants may benefit by getting more customers due to the use of the same name,' Deputy Judge Li said. 'Ordinary customers are hardly likely to get the impression that such a small family business belongs to the Wing On Group.' While the Ho family deals in second-hand property transactions, Wing On Property Management is in the business of managing the Wing On group's property. Last September, solicitors for the plaintiffs wrote to the Ho family, accusing it of infringing the Wing On trademark. Without admitting any infringement, the Ho family offered to add in its trade name and correspondence that its business was not associated with the Wing On Group, but to no avail. The plaintiffs threatened to take court action unless the Ho family settled the dispute on their terms, which included a promise to never use the Wing On name again. In October, the Ho family successfully applied to change its business registration title to 'Wing Hang'. On October 26 last year - the day the family replaced its shop sign - the plaintiffs lodged the present action with the High Court. The Ho family filed a defence. 'The defendant has made a concession [in abandoning Wing On as its trade name] and the plaintiffs have suffered no real loss. The plaintiffs are doomed to fail in their litigation for an injunction and damages,' Deputy Judge Li said.