A tale of two brothers who can't stop fighting

A tale of two brothers who can't stop fighting
LG26 Electronics in unit 36 (extreme left) and Singsung in unit 39 (extreme right) in Upper Weld Road. Both firms sell electrical goods bought from China to buyers from Cameroon. The court noted that the two brothers have been fighting and suing each other for years.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

THEY are brothers who were once business partners. Now, try as they might, they cannot seem to get away from each other.

Older brother See Lam Huat and younger sibling See Lam Seng have even set up shop close to each other in Upper Weld Road. Both buy electrical goods from China and sell them to buyers from Cameroon.

The older brother recently took the younger one to court, accusing him of copyright breach, passing off goods and defamation.

In turn, the younger sibling counter-sued for malicious falsehood and groundless threats of copyright breach action.

In judgment grounds released earlier this month, the High Court dismissed Mr See Lam Huat's claims, allowing the copyright claim only in one instance - of stickers used on an order of television sets.

Justice George Wei also found that Mr See Lam Seng had defamedhis older brother in remarks to a trade buyer and ordered damages to be assessed.

But the judge accepted the younger sibling's claims that his older brother had made groundless threats of copyright breach action to him - except in the case of the stickers.

He also ordered the older brother to stop making such threats.

A separate hearing will be held to assess the damages and costs.

Justice Wei noted in his 177-page judgment grounds that the brothers had been fighting and suing each other for years.

Both were partners in a company called S H Econ Electrical Trading, formed in 1998. It sold second-hand electrical goods to customers overseas.

In 2006, Mr See Lam Huat set up Singsung in a shophouse in Upper Weld Road, selling electrical goods bought from China to buyers from Cameroon.

Mr See Lam Seng started L S Electrical Trading the following year, in another shophouse close to his brother's. Two years later, he incorporated LG26 Electronics (trading as L S Electrical Trading). But the brand name he adopted was "LS".

The firm sourced similar products from China to sell to buyers from Cameroon.

The brothers effectively ceased working together around 2007.

Mr See Lam Huat claimed that in some cases, his younger sibling not only chose similar products but also used similar packaging and stickers.

His lawyer Adrian Tan argued that the younger sibling affected the goodwill his client had built up over the years by packaging the goods similarly and creating confusion.

Mr See Lam Seng's lawyer Philip Ling disputed the claim.

Justice Wei dismissed the claim, pointing out that even if "goodwill did exist in Singapore, the brand names 'Singsung' and 'LS' are likely to have negated any possibility of confusion".

There was also not enough evidence to show that the Singsung packaging enjoyed goodwill in Cameroon to begin with.

Justice Wei noted that both brothers competed in the lucrative African market, alongside well-known South Korean and Japanese brands.

They had used their brand names "Singsung" and "LS" to sell their China-made products, "with statements that the goods were made in Singapore and, in some cases, with Singapore quality marks", said the judge.

"While some features may cause a raised eyebrow, no issue was raised before me in respect of the parties' business models. I therefore make no further comment."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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