Irish Burger Chain Beats McDonald's in Trademark Dispute Over Who Owns "Mac"

The ruling paves the way for Supermac’s to expand into Europe and the UK.

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Jan 17 2019, 4:45pm

Photo by Niall Carson - PA Images via Getty Images

The Supermac’s fast food chain has around 100 locations scattered throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, but it has been unable to expand into Europe, the United Kingdom, or Australia, despite its best efforts. Why? Because of three little letters in its name.

McDonald’s, that golden-arched behemoth with more than 37,000 worldwide locations (and probably at least six working ice cream machines), has spent the past several years insisting that its customers would be confused by the appearance of Supermac’s restaurants elsewhere in the world. The chain’s McLawyers have all managed to keep straight faces while insisting that any restaurant with a “Mac” in it just makes the world’s populace think of special sauce and sesame seed buns.

But on Tuesday, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled that McDonald’s could no longer trademark the term “Big Mac” in Europe, because it said that the chain had not proven “genuine use” of the term in the previous five years. According to the Irish Times, the ruling paves the way for Supermac’s to add a few more countries to its list of restaurant locations.

McDonald’s has a habit of challenging anything “Mac” related or “Mc”-prefixed (just ask the company that owned MacCoffee) and it had already registered the name “Big Mac” for use on both food and restaurants in Europe. That allowed it to argue that any Supermac’s locations would just be confusing to customers—and that’s what it’s done for the past three years.

In 2015, Supermac’s European expansion plans were stopped by a 41-page objection filed by McDonald’s, in which the company argued that Supermac’s name “[takes] unfair advantage of the distinctive character and repute of" McDonald’s own McName. In addition, McDonald’s argued that that the M-A-C part sounded and looked too much like its own M-C suffix. (Supermac’s argued that Irish customers had somehow managed to distinguish between the two restaurant chains for the past 30 years.)

“We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario but, just because McDonald’s has deep pockets, and we are relatively small in context, doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner,” Supermac’s founder and managing director Pat McDonagh said.

The ruling—and the loss of that “Big Mac” trademark—are effective immediately, but McDonald’s will absolutely be challenging this in court. "We intend to appeal the decision and are confident it will be overturned by the EUIPO Board of Appeals,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told RTÉ. “Notwithstanding today’s decision, McDonald’s owns full and enforceable trademark rights for the mark ‘BIG MAC’ throughout Europe."

Come on, McDonald’s. Your food is already salty enough as it is.