eIt's one of those David vs. Goliath stories that also happens in business today. Local companies that prevail against major corporations. An Irish chain called Supermac has denounced and won McDonald's European trademark rights on the Big Mac.
Supermac's is not that small. The chain was founded in 1978 and has over a hundred restaurants spread all over the Irish island - including Northern Ireland. The menu reads like any other fast food restaurant. There are burgers of different sizes: with a pattie, with two and even with three. The one with two patties and three slices of bread is called "Mighty Mac". And this Mighty Mac was obviously too powerful for McDonalds now.
McDonald's thought the burger labels were too similar to those of their burger. Supermac's sound like Big Mac, they said. Therefore, the company has repeatedly prevented the expansion of Supermac's into other European countries. Supermac's did not want to put up with that and filed a petition for the withdrawal of Big Mac trademark protection. That was on April 11, 2017. The Irish are talking about "brand bullying" that McDonald's operates.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has now announced on 11 January that EU trademark protection for the Big Mac will be repealed with retroactive effect from 11 April 2017. The explanatory statement explains that trademarks would only be protected if they were actually used. So you want to prevent companies protect brands, just to hurt competitors. McDonald's should have proven that it has used this brand in Europe over the past five years.
McDonald's has tried exactly that and submitted affidavits from its sites in Germany, France and the UK. The said that with the brand Big Mac significant sales were made. In addition, examples of packaging, brochures, advertising posters, McDonald's websites, and the Wikipedia article on the Big Mac were submitted.
All this was obviously not enough for the judges. The submitted material was therefore insufficient to prove that the brand had actually been used intensively in the past five years. They write that the Wikipedia article is not a reliable source because the article could be modified by Wikipedia authors. The brochures and advertising posters alone would also not be sufficient because it was not stated whether these posters would have actually led to sales.
The judges also write that McDonald's did not provide data on how often the packaging is used and how often their website was accessed. In addition, it did not emerge from the documents whether on the website and citizens could have been ordered. If the company decides to limit the evidence so much, no other decision can be made. This is an indication that McDonald's may have disclosed trade secrets with further evidence.
Meanwhile, Supermac's is pleased about the decision. Company CEO Pat McDonagh said, "We knew it would be a fight, David vs. Goliath." McDonald's has more money and they are comparatively small. "That does not mean that we are not defending ourselves," he said. The goal was to discuss the brand bullying of McDonald's in public. McDonald's even had the "SnackBox", one of the most popular Supermac's products, trademarked. "They do not offer that," he complains. The decision was the end of "McMobbing".
A spokeswoman for McDonald's told FAZ.NET that McDonald's has submitted substantial evidence of use of the Big Mac brand. The company intends to appeal. The company is disappointed by the "decision".
McDonald's points out, however, that its intellectual property rights to the Big Mac brand in the EU remain protected. The company has further trademark protection at EU level and in the member countries of the EU. That protection is not affected by the decision of EUIPO.
Editor's note: In an earlier version, it was titled "Now everyone can roast their own Big Mac". This is misleading in that McDonald's at other levels still has enforceable trademark rights on the Big Mac. The headline was therefore changed. Please excuse the mistake. In addition, the McDonald's explanation of the existing brand protection in Europe has been added.