TWG tea shop may have to change its name after court decision in trademark case

IFC Mall tea shop may have to change its name after court decision in dispute with wholesaler

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 December, 2014, 2:42am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 December, 2014, 2:42am

A luxury tea room at the upscale IFC Mall in Central may have to change its name after it lost a court appeal yesterday in a trademark dispute with a tea and coffee supplier.

The logo of Singapore-based TWG Tea Company and TWG Tea (HK) Company resembled the one used by Hong Kong's Tsit Wing Group, the Court of Appeal found. Both sides had also registered trademarks using the letters "TWG".

"From the viewpoint of an average customer, there is a high degree of similarity between the marks of [Tsit Wing] and the signs used by [TWG] at the tea salon," Court of Appeal vice-president Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon wrote in the judgment, released yesterday.

"There is also a high degree of similarity between the goods for which the marks are registered and the goods and services offered by [TWG] in using the signs."

Lam, along with Mr Justice Aarif Barma and Mr Justice Ian McWalters, upheld a lower court's order for TWG to change its business name in Hong Kong.

TWG Tea has room to pursue another appeal at the Court of Final Appeal. A spokesman said the company was consulting with its legal counsel and declined to comment further on the matter.

According to the judgment, Tsit Wing started out in Hong Kong in 1932, dealing in the wholesale supply of coffee and tea products.

Since 2006, the group has registered two sets of trademarks using its initials, TWG.

The Singaporean company's main business is in operating tea shops, and it has outlets in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, London, New York and Tokyo.

It began using TWG as its name, standing for The Wellness Group, in 2008. It expanded its business to Hong Kong in 2011.

In December that year, Tsit Wing launched a lawsuit after the Singaporean company started its business in the city. The group alleged that the TWG Tea logo in its goods and services was likely to cause confusion to customers.

The High Court heard from TWG Tea's lawyer that the company had a "plan B" to use another registered logo containing the acronym "TW", to which Tsit Wing had no objection.

The court ruled in July last year that TWG Tea had infringed upon Tsit Wing's trademark, and ordered it to change its name for its Hong Kong business.