McDonald’s loses iconic ‘Big Mac’ trademark in stunning court ruling

McDonald’s exclusive ‘Big Mac’ trademark revoked in EU, rival chain Supermac’s wins legal battle

McDonald's Big Mac

McDonald’s just suffered a major blow in Europe after a court ruling revoked their exclusive trademark on the “Big Mac.” This means rival chains, most notably Irish fast-food chain Supermac’s, can now legally sell burgers under the “Big Mac” name – but there’s a twist. Keep reading to find out why there won’t be a flood of imitation Big Macs anytime soon.

How did McDonald’s lose control over the ‘Big Mac’ name in Europe?

McDonald’s registered the “Big Mac” name as a trademark in the European Union in 1996. But just recently, after a ruling by the EU’s highest court, the fast-food giant no longer has the exclusive right to use the name “Big Mac” in reference to chicken burgers sold in the region. This means rival chains in the EU are now free to use the names “Big Mac” and “Mac” to sell poultry products, as well as use the said labels in their companies’ names.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that McDonald’s failed to show it had made genuine use of the trademark for a continuous period of five years. “McDonald’s loses the EU trademark ‘Big Mac’ in respect of poultry products,” the judges ruled.

The ECJ’s ruling only revoked McDonald’s “Big Mac” trademark for restaurants and for poultry products, retaining it only in reference to the red-meat burgers it originally referred to.

After the ruling came out, McDonald’s confirmed in a statement that the court’s decision did not affect its right to use the “Big Mac” trademark. But it does allow other chains to use the name, including Supermac’s, the Irish restaurant chain that faced McDonald’s in a legal battle over the name “Big Mac”.

It’s not clear whether McDonald’s plans to appeal against the decision.

How did the legal dispute between McDonald’s and Supermac’s start?

Supermac’s is an Irish fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1978 by Pat McDonagh. It is Ireland’s largest indigenous quick-service restaurant group, with over 100 outlets across the country. The chain serves a variety of fast-food items, including burgers, chicken nuggets, and fries. Supermac’s also operates the Papa John’s Pizza brand in Ireland through a franchise agreement and has expanded its hospitality business interests through the purchase and development of several hotels.

Supermac’s legal battle against McDonald’s started in 2017 when the latter blocked McDonagh from registering Supermac’s as a trademark, to pave the way for expansion outside Ireland.

McDonagh countered that McDonald’s was not using the “Big Mac” trademark for restaurants, so other firms should be allowed to use the term “Mac” in their names. Ultimately, after seven long years. the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revoked McDonald’s exclusive trademark for the “Big Mac” name, finally allowing Supermac’s to use the term for poultry products within the EU.

Prior to the court ruling, Supermac’s accused McDonald’s of “bullying smaller firms through the defense of its trademarks, aiming to stifle competition. According to BBC News, McDonagh said the recent court decision displayed a “common-sense approach to the use of trademarks by large multinationals”.

“We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario,” McDonagh added. “We wholeheartedly welcome this judgement as a vindication of small businesses everywhere that stand up to powerful global entities.”

Does the court ruling over the ‘Big Mac’ trademark applies in the United Kingdom?

No, the court ruling over the “Big Mac” trademark does not apply in the United Kingdom. The UK left the European Union in 2020. This means that rulings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ)  no longer automatically apply in the UK. Supermac’s remains in dispute with McDonald’s over the trademark in the UK.

Source: BBC News

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