'David' Says It Beat 'Goliath' in 'Big Mac' Trademark Fight

Irish rival Supermac's contested McDonald's use of the label for certain items
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 5, 2024 10:00 AM CDT
McDonald's Loses EU 'Big Mac' Trademark Fight
A McDonald's Quarter Pounder, left, and Double Quarter Pounder are on display in Atlanta on March 6, 2018.   (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

The decision is about more than burger names, but when it comes to burger names, it's a big one. McDonald's on Wednesday lost a European Union trademark dispute over the Big Mac name after a top EU court sided with Irish fast-food rival Supermac's in a long-running legal battle. The EU General Court said in its judgment that the US fast-food giant failed to prove that it was genuinely using the Big Mac label over a five-year period for poultry products or restaurants. Per Reuters, that means McDonald's can't use the Big Mac label for its chicken sandwiches. What you need to know, per the AP:

  • The Big Mac: The Big Mac is, of course, a hamburger made of two beef patties, cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and Big Mac sauce on a bun. The Irish company doesn't sell a sandwich called the Big Mac, but it does have one called the Mighty Mac with the same ingredients.
  • The origins I: The dispute erupted when Supermac's applied to register its company name in the EU as it drew up expansion plans. McDonald's objected, saying consumers would be confused because it already trademarked the Big Mac name. It did so in 1996 for meat and poultry products and services provided by its restaurants.
  • The origins II: Supermac's filed a 2017 request with the EU's Intellectual Property Office to revoke McDonald's Big Mac trademark registration, saying the US company couldn't prove that it had used the name for certain categories that aren't specifically related to the burger over five years. That's the window of time in Europe that a trademark has to be used before it can be taken away. After the regulator partially approved Supermac's request, McDonald's appealed to the EU court.

  • The impact: The ruling opens the door for Galway-based Supermac's expansion into other EU countries.
  • From the victor: Supermac's portrayed the decision as a David and Goliath-style victory. Managing Director Pat McDonagh accused McDonald's of "trademark bullying to stifle competition" and said the ruling "represents a significant victory for small businesses throughout the world."
  • From the Goliath: The AP describes McDonald's as unfazed by the ruling, which can be appealed to the European Court of Justice, but only on points of law. "The decision ... does not affect our right to use the 'BIG MAC' trademark," the company said in a press statement. "Our iconic Big Mac is loved by customers all across Europe, and we're excited to continue to proudly serve local communities, as we have done for decades."
(More McDonald's stories.)

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