Folks, this is a wild ole’ ride: A court in Europe has ruled against McDonald’s in a lengthy battle over trademarks, the result of which will see the burger giant lose their trademark on the term “Big Mac” right across the region.
The story goes that Irish burger chain Supermac’s has been locked in a protracted legal battle with Macca’s over various intellectual property issues that largely revolve around McDonald’s 1996 trademarking of their most known and iconic menu item.
Supermac’s, on the other hand, is an Irish chain of burger restaurants founded in 1978 that has long-held ambitions to expand onto mainland Europe. But it’s a move that’s been thwarted repeatedly by McDonald’s trademarking and by, what Supermac’s claims, is “trademark bullying” by the Golden Arches corp.
The problems don’t necessarily involve the burgers themselves, rather the fact that when McDonald’s registered the trademark in 1996 not only as the name of a product, but as the name of a restaurant as well. This meant that it had the phrase “Big Mac” tucked away in its back pocket on the off chance it wanted to open a full, physical store and call it that.
McDonald’s long-standing argument was that if Supermac’s were to open a restaurant in Europe, it would cause brand confusion for customers. Supermac’s argued that McDonald’s was keeping the trade mark in a war chest to ward off potential competition.
Yesterday, the European Union Intellectual Property Office, somewhat remarkably, ruled in favour of Supermac’s, in what’s being called a David vs Goliath-like outcome.
The EUIPO asserted that McDonald’s did not provide evidence of genuine use of the term, and revoked the company’s trademark.
'End of the McBully' – Supermac's wins case against McDonald's pic.twitter.com/OGhlALO20C— RTÉ Business (@RTEbusiness) January 15, 2019
Here’s the real kicker: The trademark revocation doesn’t just cover use of the term “Big Mac” as a restaurant, it also covers it as a product.
McDonald’s, technically speaking, no longer has a trademark on the term Big Mac in Europe. Despite legal teams for McDonald’s showing quite clearly that the term was being used on product packaging across Europe, the EUIPO still filed a ruling of Not Genuine Use against Macca’s.
That means that not only can Supermac’s expand into Europe, they – or anyone else for that matter – can also call a burger a Big Mac if they bloody well want.
Representatives for Supermac’s heralded the win, stating “We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario but, just because McDonald’s has deep pockets, and we are relatively small in context, doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner.“
McDonald’s, conversely, announced plans to appeal the ruling in full, noting that they still own “full and enforceable trademark rights for the mark ‘big mac’ throughout Europe,” despite the decision.
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Image: Getty Images / Cate Gillon