McDonald's loses Big Mac trademark case

McDonald's has lost the EU trademark for use of the term "Big Mac" in relation to chicken sandwiches.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld a complaint against the US fast food giant from Irish rival Supermac's.

In 2017 Supermac's attempted to revoke McDonald's use of the term Big Mac, which the company had registered in 1996 for meat, fish and chicken sandwiches and a range of services at restaurants, including takeaway food and drive-through facilities.

Generally the rights of a holder to an EU Trademark are revoked on an application to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) if it has not been put to genuine use within a five-year period.

EUIPO dismissed Supermac's application and confirmed McDonald's use of the term for meat and chicken sandwiches, prompting the Irish company to challenge the decision.

Supermac's argued at the ECJ that McDonald's had insufficiently used the contested trademark in relation to "chicken sandwiches".

It added that the US food giant's evidence on the matter was essentially limited to the marketing of "meat sandwiches".

McDonald's and the EUIPO put forward examples of advertisements and displayboards relating to "Grand Big Mac Chickens".

But the court ultimately found the evidence was not sufficient to prove McDonald's had used the contested trademark enough in relation to poultry products.

"McDonald's loses the EU trade mark Big Mac in respect of poultry products," judges ruled.

"McDonald's has not proved genuine use within a continuous period of five years in the European Union in connection with certain goods and services."

In addition, the court considered whether McDonald's had the right to Big Mac as a protected trademark in relation to branding restaurant services, including takeaway food and drive-through facilities.

The ECJ upheld Supermac's complaint on this matter and overturned McDonald's protection of the phrase for such purposes.

Each party was ordered to bear its own costs.

Supermac's founder Pat McDonagh told Ireland's Newstalk Radio the decision was "a big win for anyone with the
surname Mac".

"It does mean we can expand elsewhere with Supermac's across the EU, so that is a big win for us today," he said.

McDonald's was unfazed by the ruling, which can be appealed to the ECJ but only on points of law.

"The decision by the EU General Court 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."