April 29, 2019

McDonald’s “Big Mac” trademark revoked?

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An American fast food chain McDonald’s risks having its trademark “Big Mac” removed by the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), after a legal confrontation with a small Irish chain called Supermac.

In fact, Supermac filed an opposition before the EUIPO in March 2017 to stop McDonald’s exclusive use of the “Big Mac” sign in the European Union.

According to the IrishTimes, Supermac is accusing McDonald’s of using the trademark to prevent the Irish company from expanding to Europe and is using the similarity between the name of the Supermac’s chain and the “Big Mac” sandwich.

In 1996, McDonald’s registered the “Big Mac” trademark for for “sandwiches” and “services provided or related to operating and franchising restaurants”.

The EUIPO stipulated that the US giant did not make “real use” of the trademark for “the goods and services for which it was registered”. Indeed, the trademark “Big Mac” has been registered for the services related to operating and franchising restaurants but as of today, it seems to only refer to the famous sandwiches.

In January 2019, the EUIPO ruled that McDonald’s did not provide enough documentation and therefore failed to prove serious use of the trademark in the five years before the application to cancel the exclusive use of the name “Big Mac”.

On the other hand, in its defense, the US fast food chain is likely to submit additional evidence such as cash register receipts to prove the extent of sandwich sales during this five-year period.

According to Patrick McDonagh, the Director of Supermac, McDonald’s has appealed to delay the expansion of the Supermac chain outside Ireland.

Could this be McDonald’s strategy?

This is the beginning of a long proceeding. McDonald’s exclusive trademark use may only be partially revoked if the company proves that it sells significant quantities of Big Mac sandwiches. In this case it might only lose the protection of the trademark for restaurants and services, which have never been created.

The example of a legal battle between McDonald’s and Supermac demonstrates the importance of a good trademarks management. The protection of domain names and trademarks is essential for businesses.

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