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In the 2016 film ‘The Founder’ Michael Keaton portrayed Ray Kroc in his battle with the McDonald Brothers for control of what was once their brand in 1950’s America.

Sixty years on and a little closer to home, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) recently considered an application by the Galway based fast food chain ‘Supermac’s’ to revoke the EU trademark of ‘Big Mac’ held by McDonald’s.

Supermac’s flipped its first burger in 1978. Their brand is reportedly derived from the schoolboy nickname of their founder, Pat McDonagh, which is attributed to his prowess on the GAA field.

McDonagh has been embroiled in a battle with McDonald’s for several years, accusing the multi-national of ‘trademark bullying; registering brand names which are simply stored away in a war chest to use against future competitors.’ Apparently, McDonald’s had previously succeeded in thwarting plans by Supermac’s to expand into the UK and mainland Europe given the similarity between the Irish company’s trading name and McDonald’s ‘Big Mac’ brand.

The EUIPO held that McDonald’s had failed to:

[prove] genuine use of the contested EU trademark for any of the goods and services for which it is registered… As a result, the application for revocation is wholly successful and the contested EU trademark must be revoked in its entirety.

The takeaway here is, in essence, ‘use it or lose it’. That said, it is understood that McDonald’s intends to appeal the decision.

By Paul Sullivan FRSA

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