Supermac’s triumphs over McDonald’s in ‘Big Mac’ trademark battle in Europe

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Supermac’s triumphs over McDonald’s in ‘Big Mac’ trademark battle in Europe

Related tags Supermac's Mcdonald's Legal challenge Trademark Fast food European court of justice Ireland

Irish fast food chain Supermac’s has triumphed against McDonald’s in a long-running dispute over the use of the ‘Big Mac’ trademark in Europe.

The ruling today (5 June) by the European General Court means McDonald’s has lost the right to use the name ‘Big Mac’ in the EU in relation to its chicken burgers and other poultry products.

It will also delist ‘Big Mac’ as a trademarked restaurant name, opening the doors to Supermac’s potentially expanding into other European countries.

Supermac’s founder Pat McDonagh described the ruling as ‘a significant victory for small businesses throughout the world’.

“This is a significant ruling that takes a commonsense approach to the use of trademarks by large multinationals,” he said.

“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.”

Supermac’s and McDonald’s have been locked in a long-running legal battle over trademarks in both Europe and the UK for years, which has halted the Irish company's attempts to expand its restaurant chain into both territories.

In 2017, Supermac’s filed for the registration of McDonald’s ‘Big Mac’ trademark in Europe to be revoked, arguing that the term had not been put to ‘genuine use’ in the EU by the fast food giant in the previous five years.

The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) partially ruled in Supermac’s favour in 2019, but allowed McDonald’s to 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 subsequently challenged this qualification.

The EU General Court said in its judgement today that McDonald’s ‘failed to prove that the contested mark had been put to genuine use over a five-year period for chicken sandwiches, poultry products, or services associated with operating restaurants’.

However, the ruling does not to affect McDonald’s trademark protections for its Big Mac beef burger.

In a statement, a spokesperson for 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 are excited to continue to proudly serve local communities, as we have done for decades.”

Supermac’s was founded by Galway businessman McDonagh in 1978 and is now one of the largest Irish-owned fast food restaurant firms in the Republic of Ireland, operating more than 100 restaurants there.

The group has a similar trademark case with McDonald’s currently working its way through the UK legal system, with a hearing expected later this year.

If successful, The Guardian ​reports​ that it could lead to Supermac’s finally expanding into the British market, a move that was previously hinted at back in 2019​.

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