BIG MAC’s big victory before the EUIPO Board of appeal

McDonald’s has recently obtained a decision in its favour from the EUIPO Board of Appeal, overturning the original decision of the Cancellation division which revoked the EU trademark “BIG MAC” in its entirety in 2019.

You certainly remember the 2019 EUIPO Cancellation Division decision that cancelled the “BIG MAC” EU trademark on the basis-of non-use.

This decision had surprised the public for whom it was inconceivable to imagine McDonald has lost the BIG MAC trademark in the EU.  Indeed, who does not know the BIG MAC mark? How could it be therefore considered that the BIG MAC mark had not been used in the European Union?

This case is the perfect example of the difference between the perception of the use of a mark by the public and EUIPO’s application of the legal requirements in a revocation action. EUIPO’s position can be sometimes considered too strict on this subject by the owners of widely-known marks which think that EUIPO’s decisions are not in line with reality.

However, there is a simple principle in trademark law: a trademark should be used for the goods and services covered after registration in order to remain protected and upon request at the competent trademark office by a third party, the trademark owner has to prove the genuine use of the trademark. The indications and evidence of use must establish the place, time, extent and nature of use of the trademark for the goods and/or services for which it is registered. Therefore, the EUIPO cannot rely on facts that are not submitted to it.

In the decision of 11th January 2019, the Cancellation Division found that the evidence provided by McDonald’s was insufficient to establish genuine use of the BIG MAC trademark.

The EU trademark BIG MAC was revoked in its entirety.

Following this decision, McDonald’s has lodged an appeal before the EUIPO Board of Appeal.

The EUIPO Board of appeal overturned the original decision in a decision dating from 14th December 2022.

The following relevant points should be noted:

  • McDonald has submitted a lot of additional evidence which have been accepted by the Board of Appeal, including consumer surveys, advertising materials, Google Analytics data and a financial audit report prepared by an independent auditing firm to demonstrate genuine use of its trademark
  • The Board of Appeal has been more accurate in its assessment of the submitted documents than the Cancellation Division, which has led to the acceptation of some documents which have been initially disregarded, including the printout from Wikipedia and affidavits signed by representatives of McDonald’s.

Big MAC lovers can be therefore reassured at least for now because the decision can be appealed to the General Court.

In the meantime, there are important lessons to be learned:

  • It is not because the mark is widely known that its genuine use will be automatically recognized by the EUIPO. Proof of use should be submitted as for any other trademarks. Proof of the use of a trademark must be provided according to certain criteria, the EUIPO not being able to rely on facts that are not submitted to it
  • This case is an opportunity to remind trademarks owners of the importance of collecting regularly relevant documents showing the use of their trademarks to be able to defend their rights within the scope of a non-use cancellation action.

Do not hesitate to reach out to Office Freylinger’s trademark team to discuss the best way to prepare your files and to check if your trademark rights might be affected by a revocation action for non-use.

Eugénie Desmet