April 3, 2009

Property to change name

By Chua Hian Hou

A YIO Chu Kang cluster housing project, Amanusa, has been ordered to change its name after the Court of Appeal ruled that its developer had tried to pass it off as part of an ultra-luxe resort group.

In February 2006, Aman Resorts, which owns the Amanusa resort in Bali, learnt about Novelty's use of the same name through the latter's advertisements.

It asked Novelty to change its name, and when Novelty refused, it sued.

According to court documents, Aman claimed Novelty had tried to pass off its properties as Aman Resorts' 'with the intention of confusing or deceiving members of the public.'

The High Court had ruled against Novelty in May 2007; Novelty appealed, but lost again in the Court of Appeal, the highest court here.

Room rates at Amanusa start from US$700 per night. Aman Resorts also operates 15 other luxury resorts in exotic locales like Morocco and Bhutan.

Aman Resorts, which moved its corporate headquarters from Hongkong to Singapore in 1999, does not have any properties here.

By comparison, Novelty's property is a 'modest cluster housing project', said Justice VK Rajah, in a 126-page Mar 31 written judgement.

Novelty's Amanusa, comprising 36 freehold three-storey houses built on a 56,000 square foot site off Old Yio Chu Kang Road, was priced at about $450 per square foot. Each unit reportedly sold for between $1.3 million and $1.8 million. The developer is behind other condominiums like Tanjong Katong's Taipan Jade and Newton's Iridium.

In his ruling, said Justice Rajah, said that Novelty's use of the Amanusa name had indeed created 'a likelihood of confusion arising from the misrepresentation'.

In addition, he said, Novelty's use fo the name 'is likely to tarnish the goodwill attached to the 'Aman' names because of the difference in quality of the accommodation provided' the two parties.

Amanusa buyers will not be able to back out of the sale on the basis of the name change. According to the judgement, buyers had signed off on a clause that they would go ahead with the transaction even if the name was changed to something else.