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Swish club at MBS sued over its name

THE owners of a high-end restaurant, bar and club venue perched atop Marina Bay Sands (MBS) are being sued by a Bali beach club bearing the same name.

At issue in the case of an alleged breach of trademark is the name Ku De Ta.

The partners behind Ku De Ta in Bali are seeking a High Court order to have the Ku De Ta name removed from the venue on the 57th floor of MBS.

They also want the Singapore venue to stop using the name on all its corporate materials, websites and elsewhere.

But Ku De Ta SG, the company which owns Ku De Ta MBS Restaurant & Club, has countered that the trademark name was conceived, designed and managed by one of the partners of the Bali outfit, Mr Arthur Chondros.

It argues in defence documents filed in court last week through lawyer Gilbert Leong from Rodyk & Davidson that Mr Chondros had set up a firm in Sydney in 2003 called Nine Squares, which licensed the name Ku De Ta to a Chris Au, who in turn assigned it for use at MBS by a third party.

At issue before the courts is whether one partner had the right to license the name and its related trademarks and whether the other partners consented to this.

The Ku De Ta partnership - comprising Australians Guy Neale, Aki Kotzamichalis and Arthur Chondros; Indonesian Made Wiranatha; and the White Horse Trading Company - has run the restaurant, bar and club in Bali since 2000.

Its team of lawyers from Allen & Gledhill, led by Mr William Ong, claims in court papers filed last month that the partnership did not at any time allow the Ku De Ta trademark to be used or licensed by any of its individual partners to anyone else and that the name belongs collectively to the partnership.

The partnership also said it has acquired an enormous amount of goodwill and international brand recognition among its high-end clients in Indonesia and abroad through its use of the name and logo on all its business and corporate materials, its chopsticks, serviettes and other paraphernalia, its two advertising and marketing websites, and a boutique selling resort wear and other items.

The partnership is alleging that by 2009 - unknown to the partners - Mr Chondros' firm Nine Squares had two trademarks registered here incorporating the name 'Ku De Ta'.

Nine Squares purportedly licensed Mr Au to use the brand name within Singapore, and he in turn assigned his licensing rights to Ku De Ta SG, the company set up in August 2009 with the sole shareholder being a firm incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The partners found out this had happened when they ran a search in the Singapore Registry of Trademarks in December 2009.

The Ku De Ta venue in Singapore opened to much fanfare last September, in time to bask in the glamour of the F1 Grand Prix.

The plaintiffs argue that the continued use of the Ku De Ta name will sow confusion and imply a connection between the goods, services and business of the Singapore and Bali venues, given that they are both restaurants, clubs and bars.

The defendant, Ku De Ta SG, counter-argues that Mr Chondros created the name 'Ku De Ta' from Kuta, Denpasar and Tabanan, all popular locations in Bali, and that the partnership agreed that he had the right to use and license the name commercially outside Indonesia as it was his idea.

It also claims the partnership agreed that Nine Squares would be the licensing entity for the Ku De Ta trademark and that it would not have rights to it outside Indonesia.

It further said Mr Chondros and Nine Squares, not the partnership, ran Ku De Ta in Bali from its inception until 2009.

A High Court pre-trial conference is due next month.

vijayan@sph.com.sg