McDonald’s loses chicken ‘Big Mac’ trademark battle

McDonald’s loses chicken ‘Big Mac’ trademark battle

In an article in December 2022 we reported a Decision from the EUIPO Board of appeal, whereby a previous decision cancelling McDonald’s EU Trademark “BIG MAC” had been overturned. In said previous decision the Cancellation division had decided that the evidence of use for the mark “BIG MAC” submitted by McDonald’s had not been sufficient.

But this was not the end of the story and the other party, the Irish fast food chain Supermac’s (Holdings) Ltd. brought the matter before the General Court of the European Union, contesting again the genuine use of the mark “BIG MAC” by McDonald’s. The General Court analysed the evidence of use submitted by McDonald’s in detail and came to the conclusion that McDonald’s had not proven use of the “BIG MAC” trademark in relation to chicken products or services “associated with operating restaurants”. With respect to chicken sandwiches, McDonald’s submitted printouts of advertising posters, screenshots of a television advertisement which was broadcast in France in 2016 and screenshots from the Facebook account of McDonald’s France in 2016, which show use in relation to “BIG MAC” sandwiches of chicken, but in the view of the General Court do not make it possible to ascertain in what quantities, or with what regularity and recurrence, the goods concerned were distributed. The evidence in relation do chicken burgers does furthermore not contain any indications as regards the prices and is thus considered insufficient.

As regards McDonald’s restaurant services, the General Court finds that it would be contrary to Article 15 of Regulation No 207/2009 to hold that use in connection with goods could also prove use in connection with specific services. The evidence which was submitted by McDonald’s does not, in the General Court’s view, serve to prove that the contested mark has been used in connection with ‘services rendered or associated with operating restaurants and other establishments or facilities engaged in providing food and drink prepared for consumption and for drive-through facilities; preparation of carry-out foods’.

As the matter now stands, McDonald’s can maintain the “BIG MAC” mark for the meat sandwiches everyone knows, but will lose trademark protection for chicken sandwiches and restaurant services in relation to this mark.

The “lessons learned” that we indicated in our previous article are still valid, namely:

  • 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 trademark. 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.

This decision can still be appealed to the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice, but only under very restrictive conditions.