Local club cannot use Ku De Ta name: Court

One of the biggest nightclub draws here, the 57th-floor bar on top of MBS has two weeks to undertake to the Court of Appeal that it will stop using the name. If not, the court will issue an order to stop its use. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
One of the biggest nightclub draws here, the 57th-floor bar on top of MBS has two weeks to undertake to the Court of Appeal that it will stop using the name. If not, the court will issue an order to stop its use. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Decision caps five-year legal battle waged by another club in Bali

THE days of swish club Ku De Ta operating under that name at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) SkyPark may be numbered.

One of the biggest nightclub draws here, the 57th-floor bar on top of MBS has two weeks to undertake to the Court of Appeal that it will stop using the name. If not, the court will issue an order to stop its use.

The club, which generated US$32 million (S$43 million) last year, is controlled by L Capital Asia, an investment arm of French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which indirectly holds its controlling stake in Ku De Ta SG.

L Capital said it is reviewing the implications of the appellate court's ruling for a club in Bangkok and other projects that are in the pipeline.

Tuesday's decision caps a five-year legal battle launched in 2010 by the partners of a beachfront club in Bali that began using the Ku De Ta name in 2000.

The Bali club's partners, represented by Senior Counsel Ang Cheng Hock and Mr William Ong of Allen & Gledhill, objected to the name being used by the club in Singapore and sought to enforce their trademark rights.

In November 2013, a lower court dismissed their case against Nine Squares, licensor of the Ku De Ta trademarks in Singapore, and against Ku De Ta SG over the trademark's unlawful use.

The lower court's decision was overturned by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon who, in December last year, found that Nine Squares did not own the trademarks and held them on trust for the Bali partners, who have exclusive rights to use and license the name.

He also ordered Nine Squares, incorporated by Australian businessman Arthur Chondros, to transfer registration of the marks to the Bali partners and provide them with an account of all profits it has made from their use. Mr Chondros conceived the Ku De Ta name and was one of the partners of Ku De Ta Bali club.

In the judgment, CJ Menon found that the Bali club partners were not bound by a licence agreement under which Nine Squares had given Hong Kong businessman Chris Au rights to use the trademark in Singapore. Mr Au subsequently assigned his rights under the licence to Ku De Ta SG.

This is because Mr Daniel Ellaway, a former common director of Nine Squares who had licensed the trademarks to Mr Au in 2009, did not have the authority to do so, or to bind Nine Squares to the licence agreement, he ruled.

Mr Sanjay Gujral, L Capital's regional managing director, told The Straits Times that it "invested in the business in January 2014 after a favourable judgment by the Singapore High Court in the last quarter of 2013, and the dispute over the trademark predates the investment".

"While it is unfortunate that subsequent legal judgments have gone against the business, L Capital had secured appropriate representations, warranties and indemnities from the previous shareholders under the terms of the investment agreement," he said.

Mr Sanjay said that the club's business has "improved significantly since L Capital's investment, and based on (its) understanding, the MBS venue ranks among the Top 10 locations globally... through significant focus in upgrading operations, people and marketing".

gleong@sph.com.sg