Supermac’s has lost a major battle in its brand war with fastfood giant McDonald’s in a ruling that deals a hammer blow to the Irish firm’s international expansion plans.
In the surprise decision, the EU office that decides on trademark disputes has upheld McDonald’s opposition against Supermac’s using its own brand across Europe to sell its famous snack boxes and a host of fastfood items or to operate fastfood restaurants.
In a split decision, the ruling does allow Supermac’s the consolation that it can use its brand name and trade name in the EU — but not to operate fastfood restaurants or to sell meat, fish, poultry, chicken nuggets, chips, onion rings, or hamburgers under that brand name.
The precedent set by the EU ruling also puts into doubt Supermac’s expansion plans in Australia where McDonald’s is also opposing the Supermac’s trade mark being used.
The firm putting forward its curry chips and snack box products as to why it should win its battle with McDonald’s and other arguments were roundly rejected by the EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM).
McDonald’s was seeking to protect registered trademarks around ‘McDonalds’, ‘McFish’, ‘McMuffin’, ‘McNuggets’, ‘McWrap’ and other McDonald products.
In a 24-page ruling, the OHIM agreed with McDonald’s that Supermac’s application for a trade mark is likely to cause confusion amongst the public over the two different fastfood brands and their fastfood products.
Last June, Supermac’s founder Pat McDonagh flew to the OHIM offices in Alicante, Spain, to deliver Supermac’s rebuttal of McDonald’s arguments.
However, the OHIM found consumers may believe that Supermac’s is a new version of McDonald’s Big Mac and assume that the goods come from the same business and as a result may confuse the conflicting goods.
It dismissed Mr McDonagh’s argument as irrelevant because the rights of McDonald’s trademark are earlier than Supermac’s trademark application.
In its ruling, the OHIM said it found “there is a likelihood of confusion for the English-speaking part of the public in the European Union”.
The OHIM gives Supermac’s the right to appeal.
Mr McDonagh said last night the ruling was “contradictory” and “questionable”.
“It is difficult to understand why they would allow the brand name, but not allow us to sell the food we sell,” he said.
A spokeswoman at McDonald’s European head offices in London said the ruling was welcome.
“We are pleased that the EU has rejected the application in connection with those goods and services deemed to be similar or identical to those of McDonald’s,” she said.
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