Trademark Triumph for Galway-based Supermac’s Franchise
Trademarking is a tricky legal battleground and disputes over trademarking can often be drawn out for years without resolution. However, after a watershed moment in trademarking history, Supermac’s is now celebrating a substantial victory in its long running case against the fast food conglomerate McDonald’s.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has issued a landmark ruling that McDonald’s use of the iconic 'Big Mac' trademark is officially cancelled. The EUIPO stated that “the EUTM proprietor [McDonald’s] has not proven genuine use of the contested EUTM ['Big Mac'] for any of the goods and services for which it is registered.” The office also found that McDonald’s will bear the costs for this revocation.
As genuine use of the contested trademark as either a burger or a restaurant name could not be proven, Supermac’s has requested that the EU regulators ensure that this ruling take immediate effect. This has been solicited on the basis that McDonald’s has engaged in "trademark bullying; registering brand names which are simply stored away in a war chest to use against future competitors.”
The existence of the ‘Big Mac’ trademark has prevented Supermac’s previous expansion plans into the UK and Europe, due to the similarity between the trading name Supermac’s and McDonald’s potential trading name ‘Big Mac’. The removal of this obstacle is a huge step forward for this franchise and represents a major victory for small businesses locked into David versus Goliath style legal cases throughout the world.
In a press release from Supermac’s, Managing Director Pat McDonagh clearly outlined that, “just because McDonald's has deep pockets and we are relatively small in context doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner.”
“Big Things Have Small Beginnings.”
Supermac’s is used to fighting against the odds. How else can a business which started as a small fast food restaurant on Main Street, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway become a sprawling national franchise capable of taking on and winning landmark legal disputes? The answer lies in the unique offering of this franchise; the combination of great products, exemplary customer service and an unswerving commitment to quality.
Since Supermac’s first opened its doors in 1978, the franchise has grown steadily and now operates over 100 family restaurants over Ireland. Though Supermac’s has undergone significant expansion in a relatively short period of time, the core standards and aims of the company have not changed and the success of this business is tied to its ability to epitomise the initiative of ‘thinking globally, acting locally’.
Looking to the Future
The most noteworthy impact of the EUIPO’s recent ruling on the ‘Big Mac’ trademark is the alleviation of the most significant barrier to Supermac’s expansion throughout the UK and Europe. Up until now, this trademark has successfully prevented Supermac’s expansion into these markets but with so many units available all over Ireland, moving to new territories is a natural and necessary next step for this business.
As stated by McDonagh, “The original objective of our application to cancel was to shine a light on the use of trademark bullying by this multinational to stifle competition.” This recent ruling by the EUIPO exemplifies why it is so important to keep informed about changing legal directives and the opportunities they can offer small and medium-sized businesses.
Supermac’s is the most eminent success story of the Irish restaurant industry and utilising the unique menu, value proposition and philosophy that have enabled them to succeed in Ireland, is likely to repeat this success internationally. Whilst the recent ruling backs up McDonagh’s claim that “small is no longer a disadvantage”, it seems unlikely that this is an adjective that will be ascribed to Supermac’s in the near future. The real question now is where will this franchise go first?