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Successful Mediation challenges the archaic notion of “an eye for an eye”

A first successful mediation under the WIPO-Singapore ASEAN Mediation Programme (“AMP”) saw parties amicably settling their dispute in October 2023.

Both disputants’ primary business was in eyecare and eye examination. The matter concerned the use of Chew’s Optics (“Party A”)’s registered trade mark(s) under Class 35:

Party A had already been utilising the said trade marks under common law for some time, before formally registering them in 2022. In 2000, Party A permitted the said trade marks to be used by Chew’s Optics (Bishan). In 2021, Chew’s Optics (Bishan) established Chew’s Optics (Kovan) [collectively, “Party B”], reportedly making use of the said trade marks without Party A’s permission.

Anticipating and pre-empting obstacles and pitfalls

Before the mediation, the disputants provided a statement that had set out their common ground on facts, and separate submissions on their own positions to the Mediator. Neither disputant had sight of the other’s position statement. The Mediator astutely called on the lawyers for each disputant before the mediation took place, to identify possible issues and options in view of a solution. This proactive approach enabled the Mediator to distil potential obstacles and pitfalls.

The disputants were first housed in separate waiting rooms. The Mediator checked on each of them, informing them about how the mediation would take place. In doing so, the Mediator had some understanding of problems that might arise during the mediation. This approach also empowered the respective disputants enabling them to share their perspectives. The Mediator was then in a better position to put their respective points across more delicately.

Mediation Proper

Hence, the platform had been set for a constructive dialogue. Each disputant’s point was identified before proceeding to the next one. Whenever the disputants were locked in a stalemate, the Mediator would intervene and probe them on options to keep the momentum of discussions going.

The Mediator also used visual tools to depict both the said trade marks and Party B’s suggested new mark, enabling the disputants to compare and contrast them.

In addition, the Mediator conducted separate discussions with each disputant, enabling them to share more. During these “caucuses”, the Mediator worked with the disputants to come up with some options in view of a solution. When each caucus ended, the Mediator would press them to reflect on a particular issue. In this systematic way, consensus could be reached on each issue. As discussions continued, the options in view of potential solutions were considerably expanded.

As the Mediator ably noted, the disputants were somewhat tired from revisiting their hard-bargaining positions several times. Indeed, each disputant realised that s/he had to give and take to continue with their businesses.

The disputants’ lawyers also consulted internally with their clients to safeguard their respective interests.

In short, both sides managed to reach a settlement agreement by identifying issues, reality-checking their own hard-bargaining positions, and exploring alternatives.

The AMP is part of the collaboration between the Singapore government and WIPO, aimed at helping businesses resolve their IP or technology disputes, with funding of up to $8,000 when certain conditions are met.