Singapore

Both sides lose claims in court over famous Eng's noodle business

But legal fight far from over with trademark dispute still before the court

A court fight between the children of the man who founded Eng's wonton noodles and a business partner fizzled out yesterday, with each side losing their respective claims against the other.

But with a trademark dispute still before the court, the battle over the wonton mee business is far from over.

The legal tussles arose from a joint venture between Mr Desmond Ng, 51, the son of the late hawker Ng Ba Eng who ran a successful stall at Dunman Food Centre, and Ms Pauline New, 52.

In 2012, the stall moved to a shop at 287 Tanjong Katong Road called Eng's Noodles House, after Ms New's husband invested $150,000 to expand the business.

A company of the same name was registered, with the younger Mr Ng and Ms New as directors and shareholders.

The older Mr Ng died in 2013. In 2018, after a falling-out between the partners, the company failed to renew the lease on the premises and ceased business on Feb 28, 2018.

On the same day, a new company called Eng's Wantan Noodle was set up and took over the premises. The new lease was reportedly signed by Mr Thomas Hong, the chief executive of soup chain Lao Huo Tang.

On March 5, 2018, Mr Desmond Ng's sisters Mui Hong, 52, and Mei Ling, 48, set up a company called Eng's Char Siew Wantan Mee. They set up shop at 248 Tanjong Katong Road, doors away from 287.

Last year, Ms New sued the three siblings and Mr Bill Teng, who handled the accounts of the defunct Eng's Noodles House and was allotted a 5 per cent stake in the company.

FIDUCIARY DUTIES

Ms New accused the defendants of conspiring to harm Eng's Noodles House by setting up a competing business.

Ms New also alleged that Mr Ng and Mr Teng had breached their fiduciary duties to Eng's Noodles House.

The Ng sisters counterclaimed against Ms New alleging that she and her husband, businessman Jason Sim, had "stolen the family business".

In a written judgment yesterday, High Court judge Valerie Thean dismissed Ms New's claims that the defendants had conspired to harm Eng's Noodles House.

Justice Thean found that Ms Ng Mui Hong, who knew of the souring relationship, was taking pre-emptive steps to protect the brand when she registered the trademark.

The judge found that the sisters setting up shop at 248 was not a premeditated plan, but a "hasty" move to assert their "original" brand in reaction to Eng's Wantan Noodle taking over at 287.

The judge also found that Ms New and Mr Sim were "instrumental" in the setting up of Eng's Wantan Noodle.

Justice Thean rejected the counterclaim by the sisters that Ms New was misleading consumers into believing that Eng's Wantan Noodle was actually the same as their "family" business.

COURT & CRIME