In January, McDonald’s lost the rights to exclusively use “Big Mac” in the European Union (EU) after a trademark dispute with Irish fast-food chain Supermac’s. While not affecting the trademarks of McDonald’s in the United States, this court case helps illustrate the intricacies of trademark law and how it is sometimes a very dangerous game.
The story of how McDonald’s lost its trademark is confusing and requires some background. Irish fast food company Supermac’s was prevented from expanding into the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) because of McDonald’s use of its mark “Big Mac” under EU trademark law. McDonald’s claimed that Supermac’s business name could be confused with its trademark “Big Mac”, even though Supermac’s never sold a product called Big Mac. McDonald’s had also trademarked the product “SnackBox”, a product it does not sell, but is sold by Supermac’s. Supermac’s filed a complaint with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) claiming that McDonald’s had not proven genuine use of the mark “Big Mac” in the EU. The EUIPO agreed, stating that McDonald’s did not provide the proper evidence to show genuine use, cancelling the Big Mac trademark.
While the ruling is likely be appealed, Supermac’s can now expand into the UK and EU and anyone can use the phrase “Big Mac”. There is a fine line between protecting a trademark and using that trademark too aggressively. In the eyes of the EUIPO, McDonald’s crossed that line. The repercussions have been pretty swift. Burger King in Sweden appears to be enjoying the schadenfreude, unveiling a limited-time menu featuring items such as The Burger Big Mac Wished It Was and The Like A Big Mac But Actually Big.
Trademark law, and all other intellectual property laws, can be very nuanced and complicated. If you or your business is looking for a competitive edge, or to prevent competitors from taking aggressive actions that could be damaging, call the Law Offices of Scott Warmuth today at 888-517-9888 for a free consultation.