Major victory for Supermac’s in row over McDonald’s use of ‘Big Mac’ trademark

Major victory for Supermac’s in row over McDonald’s use of ‘Big Mac’ trademark
Supermac's Pat McDonough

European Court of Justice upholds complaint made by Irish-owned Pat McDonough’s company Supermac’s

In a ruling, published Wednesday 5th June 2024, the court found that McDonald’s had not made genuine use of the trademark to sell ‘chicken sandwiches’ or ‘foods prepared from poultry products.’

The European court found that 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.”

This, in effect, means that found that McDonald’s had not made genuine use of the trademark to sell “chicken sandwiches” or “foods prepared from poultry products” and that it had not “made genuine use of the Big Mac trademark when opening restaurants and drive-through outlets.”

While the European Union Intellectual Property Office subsequently partially upheld that application, it determined that McDonald’s could still use the trademark for chicken sandwiches and other poultry products, as well as in connection with McDonald’s outlets and drive-ins.

Supermac’s then challenged this finding in Europe’s highest court, leading to this Wednesday ruling.

“The evidence submitted by McDonald’s does not serve to prove that the contested mark has been used in connection with ‘services rendered or associated with operating restaurants and other establishments or facilities engaged in providing food and drink prepared for consumption and for drive-through facilities; preparation of carryout foods’,” found the European Court of Justice.

While ‘Big Mac’ has been registered as a trade mark in the EU since 1996, Supermac’s applied for revocation of that mark, in 2017, in relation to certain goods and services.
Supermac’s Pat McDonagh said: “This is a significant ruling that takes a common-sense approach to the use of trademarks by large multi-nationals. It represents a significant victory for small businesses throughout the world.

“We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario. The original objective of our application to cancel was to shine a light on the use of trademark bullying by this multinational to stifle competition.

“We have been saying for years that they have been using trademark bullying. They trademarked the ‘SnackBox’, which is one of Supermac’s most popular products, even though the product is not actually offered by them.

“This decision by the European Trademark Office is also an indication of how important the European institutions are to help protect businesses that are trying to compete against faceless multinationals. We can be proud to be part of a Europe in which all are equal. Small is no longer a disadvantage.”

“We wholeheartedly welcome this judgement as a vindication of small businesses everywhere that stand up to powerful global entities.”

McDonald’s is still able to use the ‘Big Mac’ trademark for other uses such as its beef burgers.

A statement from McDonald’s said: “The decision by the EU General Court does not affect our right to use the ‘Big Mac’ trademark.

“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.”

McDonalds has said it plans to appeal the decision.