Trust Over a Trade mark

In Singapore, we had an interesting case on a trust over a trade mark. Guy Neale and others v Nine Squares Pty Ltd [2015] 1 SLR 1097 is a case which considered, inter alia, whether a trade mark is held on an express trust for a partnership. In this case, the plaintiffs were partners of a well-known restaurant, bar and club in Bali called “Ku De Ta”. The defendant, Nine Squares Pty Ltd (“Nine Squares”), is the registered owner of two trade marks in Singapore bearing the name “KU DE TA”. Nine Squares was a company incorporated in the State of Victoria, Australia, where at all material times, a partner in “Ku de Ta” Bali, one Arthur Chondros, owned 50 % of the shares. The plaintiffs argued that an express trust had been created whereby Nine Squares held the trade mark on trust for the plaintiffs. In this case, there was no dispute as to the certainty of subject-matter and objects of the express trust. The primary contention is certainty of intention. Overturning the trial judge on the facts, the Court of Appeal found that there was sufficient evidence that Nine Squares intended to hold the trade marks on an express trust for the plaintiffs. After analysing the cases on certainty of intention to create a trust, the Honourable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon observed that the focus seems to be (at [58]):

"whether it was possible and appropriate to infer an intention to create a trust by looking at evidence not only of the alleged settlor’s words and conduct, but also of the surrounding circumstances and the interpretation of any agreements that might have been entered into”.