‘Big Mac’ is Irish

The iconic "Big Mac" got an Irish passport after the General Court of the European Court of Justice upheld a complaint by Supermac’s against McDonald’s in a long-running dispute over the use of the trademark.

The court ruled that McDonald's could not use the trademark when it came to poultry products such as chicken sandwiches. The ruling also deprives McDonald’s of using the term Big Mac as a protected trademark when branding its restaurants, drive-through facilities and for the preparation of carry-out food.

Supermac’s has said that historically McDonald’s used the Big Mac trademark to prevent the Irish company from naming its outlets "Supermacs".

McDonald’s initially registered the Big Mac trademark in the European Union in 1996, but the General Court found that McDonald's had not made genuine use of the trademark.

In 2017 Supermac's applied to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to have the trademark revoked on the basis that McDonald’s had not made genuine use of it in the previous five years. In 2019, the EUIPO partially ruled in Supermac’s favour, revoking McDonald’s registration of the Big Mac trademark. As a result, Supermac’s was permitted to use the term Big Mac on any food items it sold.

However, the EUIPO also said 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 challenged this qualification before the European Court of Justice.

Now the ECJ ruled that McDonald's would also lose the Big Mac trademark when it comes to poultry products and how it branded its restaurants and drive-through operations.

The General Court found that McDonald’s had not made genuine use of the trademark, again within a continuous period of five years in the European Union. The court also found that McDonald’s has not made genuine use of the trademark to sell "chicken sandwiches" and "foods prepared from poultry products". Nor had McDonald’s made genuine use of the Big Mac trademark when opening restaurants and drive-through outlets.

The court found that the evidence submitted by McDonald’s did not indicate the extent of use of the trademark in connection with poultry products, in particular when it came to the volume of sales, the length of the period during which the mark was used and the frequency of use.

The option of appealing the outcome to the European Court of Justice remains for McDonald's.

Supermac's Managing Director Pat McDonagh welcomed the decision of the General Court of the European Union to revoke the Big Mac registration.

"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," he said.