McDonald’s lost its exclusive claim to Mc trademark

McDonald’s, or “McBully, as labelled by Pat McDonagh, the founder of Irish chain of fast-food restaurants Supermac’s, has suffered another defeat. Following the previous loss of its “Big Mac” trademark, the use of “Mc” is no longer protected by trademark.

By

Igor Demcak

McDonald’s has wisely registered trademarks on its key products and extended this level of production to the prefix “Mc” itself which has been viewed as a symbol of the brand. Building on these trademarks, McDonald’s has skilfully deferred any signs of competition, including Irish chain of fast-food restaurants Supermac’s which has become ominous for the US brand. Pat McDonagh, the founder of Supermac’s, referred to its more established rival as “McBully”, revealing that although Supermac’s has not included “Big Mac” in its menu, McDonald’s used the similarity argument to defer its market entry into the UK [1]. It is this excessive protection of its trademarks that has led Supermac’s to challenge the validity of McDonald’s long-held marks.

The ruling of the EUIPO challenged the validity of McDonald’s trademark on both “Big Mac” and “Mc”, arguing that McDonald’s has failed to prove genuine use of these marks [2]. The ruling goes even further, revealing that “Mc” on its own lacks distinctiveness and can be a source of a distinctive mark only in combination with other words [2].

What does it mean for fast-food restaurants? With the exception of several established and trademarked product names (e.g. McFlurry, McNuggets, McMuffin), both marks “Big Mac” and “Mc” can be used freely [3]. According to Pat McDonagh, this ruling represents a victory for the small businesses that have been bullied by larger competitors [4].

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[1] Reuters (2019), “McDonald’s loses Big Mac trademark case to Irish chain Supermac’s”, available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mcdonald-s-corp-trademark-supermacs/mcdonalds-loses-big-mac-trademark-case-to-irish-chain-supermacs-idUSKCN1P92JA

[2] BBC News (2019), “McDonald’s loses second Mc trademark case against Supermac’s”, available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49254551

[3] Scribner, H. (2019), “McDonald’s loses trademark dispute over Mc prefix. Here’s what happened”, available from: https://www.deseret.com/2019/8/7/20797603/mcdonald-s-loses-trademark-dispute-over-mc-prefix-here-s-what-happened

[4] The Trademark Lawyer Magazine (2019), “McDonald’s loses exclusive use of Mc”, available from: https://trademarklawyermagazine.com/mcdonalds-loses-exclusive-use-of-its-mc-prefix/

Igor Demcak

Igor Demcak

Trademark Attorney

Filed over 150 trademarks as a trademark attorney

UPJS Kosice

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