The Gowling WLG Intellectual Property (IP) Moot is Singapore’s first Intellectual Property mooting competition. This year, it was organized by the NUS Law Mooting and Debating Club (MDC), in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).

The Moot Problem

The year’s moot revolved around the trademark of a bottle with a peculiar spigot at its base. The Appellant, a Malaysian company, claims that the Respondent, a Singapore company, had infringed its trademark design while the Respondents contended that the trademark was invalidated because the trademark shape was necessary to obtain a technical result and that the trademark lacked genuine use.

The Judges

From left to right,

Mr Mark Lim, a Senior Counsel with the IP Academy of Singapore and the IPOS. As the head of the Hearings and Mediation Group at IPOS, he provides legal advice for the IP Management for Public Agencies program. Also, he has served as the Vice-Chairman for the Singapore Law Society’s IP Committee for several years and has published many articles on both local and international intellectual property law.

Ms Sheena Jacob, the Managing Partner of JurisAsia LLC, makes a recurring appearance in the Gowling moot. As a leading intellectual property and technology lawyer with more than 25 years’ experience, she has been actively involved in the intellectual property arena and has served as a Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific Conference 2020 for the iTechLaw Association.

Professor David Llewelyn, the Managing Director of David Llewelyn & Co LLC, is a man who wears many hats. He is a Professor at Singapore Management University’s School of Law and Professor of Intellectual Property Law at King’s College London. Furthermore, he is an intellectual property adjudicator at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and author of many leading texts on the UK and EU trade marks and intellectual property law.

Round 1

Kickstarting the moot, Denise Thia for the Appellant began with her opening submissions. However, not long after, she was sieged by a bombardment of questions from the panel, ranging from “What is a spigot?” to “Is it your case that nobody else can use a spigot on the bottle?”. Undaunted, Denise stood her ground and gave firm responses to every question. She demonstrated a strong understanding of the technical aspects of the case and finesse in supporting her stand with relevant precedents.

Following which, Yeoh Su-Jane responded with her iron-clad defence on how the trademark shape should be invalidated due to the lack of genuine use. The judges tried to poke holes in her case, claiming that the court will not condone “hijacking a trademark”. However, she was clearly well-prepared, given that her responses were calculated and left little room for doubt.

Round 2

The second round began with a short narrative by Ashley Teo on the Appellant’s diligence in doing everything by the book. Subsequently, she touched on the ‘heart’ of the issue which is the functionality of the Trademark shape. Ashley gave a unique proposition that the spigot was not meant to be fully functional given that after 2/3 of the bottle was dispensed, the remaining 1/3 fell below the level of the spigot and could no longer be dispensed. Furthermore, her poetic and passionate arguments often pulled at the heartstrings, depicting her to be nothing short of a fierce advocate.

Acknowledging the formidable hurdle she had to overcome, Sarah Lu for the Respondent fought back with extra tenacity and gave witty counterarguments such as “if the bottle was tilted, liquid can still flow out of the spigot and hence, it is still functional.” In her closing submissions, Sarah summarised that the case is at its core what should have been patented but trademarked instead to gain unlimited monopoly. Overall, Sarah’s calm demeanour proved to be one of her greatest strengths as it helped her to work steadily through the multitude of questions posed by the judges.

Results

After much deliberation, the judges returned for a final verdict. The judges recognised that none of the finalists had studied IP law previously and praised them for their admirable efforts in attempting to traverse through the challenging concepts in IP law. In particular, Ms Sheena Jacobs noted that she was pleased to see an all-female finalist. With that being said, the awards were presented.

In no particular order of merit,

Runner-up: Denise Thia

Runner-up: Yeoh Su-Jane

2nd place: Ashley Teo

Champion of Gowling WLG IP Moot 2020: Sarah Lu

Congratulations to all the finalists of Gowling WLG IP Moot 2020! It was clear that regardless of the results, all the finalists gave their best till the very end. We hope to cover more excellent moots in the future!

[Credits to Lai Sin Yee from MDC for the photographs]