KUALA LUMPUR: Despite early instructions from the Youth and Sports Ministry to the National Sports Council (NSC) to register the national jersey tiger stripe design as their trademark, the latter only proceeded to do so after a sports apparel company claimed rights over it.
This was revealed by the ministry's secretary--general Datuk Mohid Mohamed, the first witness in the trail over the ownership of the design, between NSC and Mesuma Sports Sdn Bhd, at the Intellectual Property High Court, here.
During his testimony, Mohid admitted "it took some time" for NSC to register the design as theirs because they felt no company would challenge its ownership status.
"We thought no company would take what rightfully belonged to the government. We didn't expect this to happen," he said during the first day of the trial yesterday.
Mohid was referring to the fact that Mesuma have been the registered proprietor of the trademark for the "three tiger stripes" for 10 years (from July 9, 2009 to July 9, 2019) with certificates of registration issued on Feb 19, this year.
During the court proceedings, Mohid was permitted to give a supplementary statement in addition to the written statement that was earlier tendered in court.
In his supplementary statement, Mohid said the ministry wanted to claim ownership of the design because it is a symbol of unity, love for the country and patriotism.
"This is not for commercial purpose or to make money out of it. The design belongs to everybody and when a company registers it as theirs, it is like registering the Malaysia flag, which belongs to everybody, as their own.
"Because of this trademark registration, the ministry not only incur losses, many of the companies that we approach for sponsorship were also not willing to give it."
Mohid said the sponsorship could have been used to develop the sports industry. During cross examination, when asked by lead counsel for the respondent S.F. Wong as to why NSC would then want to register the tiger stripes as an industrial design, Mohid said that was in the government's interest.
"When it belongs to the government, we can give it to everyone to use," he said.
Earlier the plaintiff tendered various items bearing the tiger stripes in court.
The items include several t--shirts with three tiger stripes as well as five tiger stripes, a set of cup and saucer, books, pictures and a paper bag.
This caused judge Datuk Hanipah Farukillah, amazed at the items produced, to quip: "It's amazing the kind of items the intellectual property court has to handle," prompting the gallery to laugh.
The second witness for the applicant's, Datuk Nazaruddin Abdul Jalil, who was one of the judges in the contest ran by the ministry in 2005 to design the national jersey, meanwhile, identified the top three winning entries that had been chosen.
He also identified the design that was redesigned by Tan Sri Dr Lim Kok Wing to give it a national theme. He said the top three winning entries were 'Harimau belang', 'Jalur Gemilang' and 'Bunga Raya'.
"As the judge, I first rejected all three designs as they were not up to the mark but later had to settle for them as the best entries.
"The improved design was based on only 'Harimau Belang' and 'Jalur Gemilang'," he testified.
The ownership tussle over the national jersey design came to light following a series of articles by The Malay Mail in May, last year.
The hearing continues tomorrow.