An Irish burger chain has overturned McDonald’s trademarks on “Big Mac” and “Mc” in the European Union.
Will this mean that McDonald’s will rename their European menu? Probably not. But it does mean that a certain Irish fast food chain is now free to expand beyond its Irish borders.
If you haven’t heard of Supermac’s, then you don’t live in Ireland. It’s a fast food restaurant chain that opened its first location in 1978 and has since expanded to 106 locations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. They sell very similar food to McDonald’s, including burgers with names like “SuperMac” and “Mighty Mac”.
In fact, that similarity in naming convention angered McDonald’s, who filed a complaint with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that Supermac’s used names that are too similar to their own trademarks, effectively blocking them from expanding into the rest of the EU.
That was back in 2015, and since then it’s been a 4-year legal battle of Supermac’s and McDonald’s duking it out in court over just what constitutes a valid burger trademark. In 2017, Supermac’s countered that McDonald’s trademarks on “Big Mac” and “Mc” amounted to "trademark bullying; registering brand names... which are simply stored away in a war chest to use against future competitors".
Surprising almost everyone, the EUIPO agreed. As of Wednesday, January 16th, McDonald’s trademarks on Big Mac and Mc have been struck down across the entire European Union, allowing anyone to use those words in their own products.
Supermac’s owner and founder Pat McDonagh told Independent.ie that he was delighted with the court’s decision. "It doesn't matter how big or how small you are, it's great that you can get a hearing from the European office. I'm delighted with the result; I was hopeful for a positive outcome - but not to the extent to which we won," he said.
So what will this mean for McDonald’s? Nobody is quite certain. McDonald’s responded to the ruling to say they are “considering our position”, but it seems unlikely that the international fast food giant will rename their menu just for Europe.
Meanwhile, Supermac’s is free to expand their operations into Europe to compete with both McDonald’s and myriad other fast food joints across the continent.