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International Sandwich chain Subway vs Singapore’s Subway Niche

International Sandwich chain Subway vs Singapore’s Subway Niche
Subway vs Subway Niche

Subway vs Subway Niche (image via AsiaOne.com)

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.

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Via Channelnewsasia.com:

“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.

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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.

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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.

About The Author

alvinology

Alvin is a marketer by day and blogger by night. He is a 100% geek who spends too much time surfing the web.

9 Comments

  1. Tan Thuan Tong (T T Tan)

    I had the same reaction as you when I read the news report. I will not go to Subway until they withdraw the case too! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. alvinology

    This is great! Hope more Singaporeans feel the same way too. I hate bullies, especially one that is bullying a fellow Singaporean making a decent living.

    Reply
  3. xtrocious

    I think there was also an article that wrote about how Subway tried to sue a local store here with a Subway brand of clothing…

    Good thing that Subway wasn’t successful!

    They sound like jerks!

    Reply
  4. lawless

    It isnt exactly David v Goliath. Subway Niche has engaged big time Senior Counsel Engelin Teh from well to know medium sized law firm where as Subway Angmo has engaged one dunknow who Max Ng from some small sized law firm. Your anger is misplaced. This is just another commercial dispute between 1 very rich individual and a rich corporation.

    Reply
  5. Alan Wong

    ‘Subway Niche’ as in the signboard most probably has been used since 1987 and in most likelihood is the registered company name by itself. If it has been the registered company name since then, how can there be any infringement of a registered trademark 2 years later ?

    So now how can Angmo Subway allged that Subway Niche has ‘infringed’ on its trademark that was non existent then ? Do they even have any cow sense to sue Subway Niche ?

    Reply
  6. alvinology

    lawless: I don’t think which lawyer Subway and Subway NIche engage has anything to do with the fact that Subway was the one who initiated the sue for trademark infringement.

    Reply
  7. kingfisher

    Me too. Will be boycotting them. Jia You Subway Niche

    Reply
  8. firefish

    lawless: Most likely, that small firm company is on a retainer by Subway (i.e. they are paid on a regularly basis to “police” Subway’s trademark). And sometimes, to prove that they are doing something, these law firms sue companies bearing the registered trademark.

    The trademark law works on a first come first serve basis.The first person who registers the trademark gets the trademark registered.

    In this case, it must be proven that Subway Niche actually was passing off Subway. Subway Niche probably used the name “Subway” because they started near the “subway” or Mert. So passing off is an accusation without grounds.

    Secondly, visually, any person who is not blind will see in no way the two logos are similar visually, safe for the terribly generic word “Subway”.

    Lastly, just conduct a simple straw poll… ask any man on the street whether they are confused between the two establishments and they will probably know one from the other.

    This is another case of big MNCs and corporations bullying local companies. I hope this does not set a precedent as local small companies already have a hard time doing business in Singapore.

    And if Subway does win, a boycott on Subway should be initiated in the blogosphere to support our local boys.

    Reply
  9. Peter

    Raymond,
    What’s up. Are the Angmoh Subway company still trying to bully you out of business, after you have spent 25 good years of your life building it up? Are you not going to handover you business to your children?
    Keep it up!
    Cheers,
    Peter

    Reply

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