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McDonald’s fail to protect Big Mac trade mark
A branding challenge toppled the golden arches when a small Irish fast food company, Supermac, managed to block McDonald’s from trademarking the terms Big Mac and Mc throughout Europe.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office ruled that McDonald’s had not been able to prove genuine use of the trade mark Big Mac in relation either a burger or restaurant name, and that the trademark they registered back in 1996 should be cancelled.
The judgement opens the door to expansion for Supermac as it will be able to register its brand as a trademark in the UK and Europe. McDonald’s had used the brand name’s similarity to Big Mac as a reason to block previous expansion outside Ireland, even though the Supermac company name was based on the founder’s nickname when the food chain was established in 1978 which might have been sufficient to permit them to use it.
This case demonstrates how important it is to take filing detailed evidence in opposition proceedings seriously and not presume (as McDonald’s perhaps did) that notoriety is sufficient to prove evidence of genuine use of a trade mark.
It is also a good example of how planning for future expansion needs to take place at an early stage of a brand’s development. If Supermac had registered their trade mark in other jurisdictions in the late 1970s, they would have been in a stronger position to be able to use the name or even object to McDonald’s application for its trade mark in the name Big Mac when that was made in the 1990s.
If you require any advice regarding any matter similar to this, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team of Intellectual Property Solicitors in Devon on 01392 207020.