California Intellectual Property Blog


McDonalds Loses the BigMac Trademark in Europe

Orange County – In Europe, McDonald’s has held the trademark for the term “BIG MAC” since 1998. However, the trademark was recently lost after the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO) decision to revoke the trademark in response to a cancellation filed by an Irish fast-food chain called Supermac’s.

History of the Big Mac

The Big Mac is the invention of Jim Deligatti, who owned a McDonald’s franchise in Pittsburgh. The sandwich debuted in 1967, and despite its decidedly un-catchy original names, such as “Blue Ribbon Burger” and “Aristocrat,” it became popular on the strength of its special sauce. In 1968, Esther Glickstein Rose, a secretary at the McDonald’s headquarters, bestowed the name “Big Mac” on the above average-sized burger, and a legend was born. Over the next several decades, McDonald’s expanded internationally, bringing its burgers to Europe, among other places.

Supermac Challenges the Trademark

In 2017, Supermac filed a proceeding to cancel McDonald’s trademark on the phrase Big Mac. Throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, the chain Supermac consists of more than 100 locations. The Big Mac trademark was originally registered under various classifications that outlined food preparation, edible sandwiches and services associated with operating or franchising restaurants.

The trademark attorneys for Supermac argued that the Big Mac trademark was not put to genuine use for a continuous period of five years. Although McDonald’s refuted by outlining the number of member states that used the term for advertising and on packaging, Supermac stated that this evidence solely supports genuine use for sandwiches but not for the other goods and services for which the Big Mac trademark registration was obtained. The EUIPO found that the evidence from McDonald’s did not qualify as genuine use for the goods and services at issue, and released their decision to cancel the trademark.

Burger King Changes its Menu

In response to this decision, Burger King Sweden couldn’t resist poking fun at its competitor and did so in the fashion of creating a new menu. Internet users shared photos of the menu board from a Burger King restaurant in Sweden. To the surprise of many of their customers, Burger King advertised an entire menu of sandwiches called “Not Big Macs,” using the name of the McDonald’s sandwich in several of its menu items. Product names in this line included, “Big Mac-ish but flame-grilled of course,” Like a Big Mac but actually big,” and “The burger Big Mac wished it was.”

This is not the first legal battle that McDonald’s has faced regarding trademarks. The company has struggled over the years to protect the “Mc” and “Mac” prefix. The company has lost battles internationally over trademark disputes, despite their best efforts to eliminate brand competition. In the hope of a better outcome and to protect the term Big Mac in Europe, McDonald’s has already announced it plans to appeal the cancellation decision from the EUIPO.


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