Website ordered to stop selling fake goods

Calvin Klein wins summary judgment against operator of SGbuy4u

The operator of local website SGbuy4u was ordered by the High Court to stop selling fake Calvin Klein goods, in the first reported case involving a summary judgment against a firm peddling fake goods online.

Leading fashion designer Calvin Klein had sued Singapore-registered Global PSM for trademark infringement after investigators bought fake Calvin Klein goods including wallets and underwear online on the SGbuy4u website.

Global PSM, which operated the website, claimed it provided customer-to-customer service. The website is a platform on which users can search for and buy goods ranging from apparel to health products and electronics.

When a user pays for an item on the website, the business operator places an order on the Chinese shopping website Taobao, pays for the item, receives delivery in China and freights the item to Singapore to the customer.

After two sample purchases, Calvin Klein sued and sought summary judgment against Global PSM, freight forwarding company HS International and Mr Jeffrey Tan, owner of the two firms.

A summary judgment means the case need not go to a full trial to hear witnesses and consider all the evidence because a prima facie case had been made out.

"The crux of the dispute lies in the proper characterisation of the business and the involvement of each of the defendants in those business activities," said Justice Chan Seng Onn in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Global PSM, through lawyers C. Selvaraj and Jonathan Ow, had argued that it served as a courier similar to DHL or FedEx, and the original sellers on Taobao were liable for the trademark breaches.

But lawyers K. Sukumar and Jaswin Kaur Khosa countered that the SGbuy4u business does more than courier services. It collects payments, buys the goods on Taobao and directs the seller to send the goods to a warehouse in Guangzhou used by SGbuy4u. No such facilities were provided by deliverers like FedEx or DHL.

Justice Chan had "no hesitation" in holding Global PSM liable for trademark infringement, finding that it manages the SGbuy4u website and allows a user to buy directly from Global PSM. But he ruled that there were issues that needed to be clarified and were appropriate for a trial in relation to HS International and Mr Tan, the other two defendants.

The judge said "there is a pressing need for intellectual property law to keep up with technological advances in order to ensure that the law continues to protect intellectual property and rights owners in real and relevant ways".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Website ordered to stop selling fake goods'. Print Edition | Subscribe