International Sandwich chain Subway vs Singapore’s Subway Niche
It is David vs Goliath in this legal tussle between international sandwich chain Subway and Singapore’s own nonya kueh chain, Subway Niche. My support goes to the latter.
I am a fan of Subway sandwiches, but in support of Subway Niche, I will boycott Subway from now on unless they drop this silly lawsuit.
In my view, there’s no way any regular Singaporeans will confuse the two brands. Subway Niche mostly sells nonya kueh. Moreover, Subway Niche have been selling their kuehs in Wisma Atria since 1987, two years before Subway registered trademarks, and nine years before it opened its first outlet in Singapore.
Just because you are bigger doesn’t give you the right to shove the little guys around. My respect goes to Subway Niche boss Lim Eng Wah for standing up to the big bully.
Way to go Subway. What a wonderful PR move. Your bullying ways has just lost you one loyal customer; and I am pretty sure I am not the only riled Singaporeans who will be boycotting your brand.
“Subway”, “Subway Niche”: Can you tell the difference?
By Teo Xuanwei (5 Oct 2011)
SINGAPORE: Their shops may both contain the word “Subway” but one sells simple cling-wrapped triangle-cut sandwiches while the other’s main offering is “gourmet” submarine sandwiches.
It is unlikely for a consumer, even if he has “imperfect recollection”, to think of local nonya kueh company Subway Niche as one and the same, or is an arm of the American sandwich giant Subway, the former’s lawyer Senior Counsel Engelin Teh said on Wednesday.
The Florida-based firm, the world’s largest fast-food chain with 34,891 stores in 98 countries, is suing Subway Niche boss Lim Eng Wah for infringing its registered trademark.
At the close of the two-day hearing at the High Court on Wednesday, Ms Teh said a company has to be running a business for its brand goodwill to be tarnished in the first place.
Mr Lim has been selling sandwiches since he opened his first outlet in Wisma Atria in 1987, two years before Subway registered trademarks, and nine years before it opened its first outlet here, she said.
Subway is contending, however, that Subway Niche started selling sandwiches only in 2001.
Still, Ms Teh pressed that her client’s business centres on nonya kueh, and the simple sandwiches are only one of the many other fare sold, such as local dishes like nasi lemak, cakes and pastries.
Some employees of the plaintiff had claimed in sworn documents that some people were confused between the two – in one case, citing an instance where two unidentified women went to a Subway outlet asking to collect their orders for nonya kueh.
But Ms Teh argued that the proper way to demonstrate confusion among consumers would have been through a market survey, instead of through “random affidavits with no specifics and precision”.
The wrangle began four years ago when Subway Niche received a “cease-and-desist” letter from Doctor’s Associates, the American owner of the Subway chain.
Mr Lim ignored the demand and was sued the following year for trademark infringement and passing off — where someone misrepresents his or her goods or services as being that of the claimant’s.
The suit was dismissed in September 2009 after the plaintiffs failed to comply with an order to furnish a security for Subway Niche’s legal costs.
The present legal suit was brought on on 12 May last year and Subway, represented by Mr Max Ng, has until later this month to submit its written reply to Subway Niche’s arguments.
The court will give its decision at a later date.