Abercrombie & Fitch wins trademark fight

American casual wear brand Abercrombie & Fitch has won its battle to stop a Singapore company from registering the A&F abbreviation and moose silhouette design as a trademark for eyewear products.

In 2013, MMC International Services had tried to register the "A&F" abbreviation and moose silhouette as a trademark here for spectacles and related accessories, arguing that these were for a class of products for which none of Abercrombie & Fitch's earlier marks were registered. MMC claimed it had " first-mover advantage".

Principal Assistant Registrar Sandy Widjaja of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) was not convinced, noting that MMC could not justify why it chose this trademark.

"A&F cannot be an acronym of the applicants since they are MMC International Services," she said.

She said MMC's failure to explain why it combined both marks for its use "can only lead to the irresistible conclusion that the application mark was slavishly copied from (Abercrombie & Fitch) by a 'cut and paste' job".

In judgment grounds released yesterday, she noted that MMC did not show up at the May hearing but had relied on written submissions.

"A look at the documents referred will reveal very little information has been provided."

Drew & Napier lawyers, led by Ms Eileen Chong, argued that Abercrombie & Fitch marks had been in use here since at least 2002 when online purchases of its products became available in Singapore.

The wide publicity enjoyed by the American brand when its physical store opened in Orchard Road in 2011 meant MMC would have been aware of its marks, they said.

Total sales at the brand's store here for the two years from 2012 amounted to about $55 million. The major global player in retail clothing recorded $2.37 billion in sales worldwide in 2013.

Ms Widjaja said the MMC move may affect the American brand if it were to expand into eyewear products in future.

She noted that there is also "a likelihood of misrepresentation that (both parties) are one and the same or that they are economically linked".

MMC was ordered to pay costs, which have yet to be decided.

This article was first published on August 20, 2016.
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