McDonald’s Loses Huge ‘Big Mac’ Trademark Case

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 05, 2024

McDonald’s has lost a huge legal case in the European Union over their trademark use of the name “Big Mac.”

For decades, McDonald’s had the Big Mac name trademarked in the EU. However, this trademark had recently been challenged — and now, McDonald’s has been beaten in court over this challenge.

Supermac’s vs McDonald’s

McDonald’s first registered the name Big Mac in the EU back in 1996. For decades, the fast food giant had this name trademarked, which meant that no other restaurant or service could claim it as their own.

Many people walking past a Supermac’s location, as well as other businesses, in Galway.

Source: Galway - Rosemary Ave - Supermac's by Joseph Mischyshyn/Wikimedia Commons

However, things began to change in 2017, thanks to Supermac’s. Supermac’s asked the EU Intellectual Property Office to have McDonald’s trademark revoked.


Supermac’s Argument

According to Supermac’s, McDonald’s had not used the trademark genuinely in the past five years. Therefore, they shouldn’t have trademarked the phrase, nor should they be able to keep it.

The exterior of a Supermac’s location seen in Ireland.

Source: Ennis - O'Connell Street - Supermac's by Suzanne Mischyshyn/Wikimedia Commons

Of course, a Big Mac is one of the most popular food items on McDonald’s menu in both the United States and the EU.

A Ruling Against McDonald’s

A court had ruled in Supermac’s favor back in 2019. However, the court also stated that the Big Mac trademark could still be used by McDonald’s when discussing its poultry products.

A view of a McDonald’s Big Mac meal with sandwiches and two fries.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Supermac’s challenged this decision again, stating that this exception shouldn’t exist. This sent the case to the European Court of Justice.

The Latest Ruling

Now, the ECJ has fully revoked McDonald’s “Mac” trademark when it comes to poultry products and restaurants.

A close-up of a modern McDonald’s building.

Source: Janica Chioco/Unsplash

However, McDonald’s can still use its trademark when the fast food giant references its red-meat burgers — what the Big Mac trademark was originally created for.

A Massive Loss

For McDonald’s, this ruling is a huge loss for its many restaurants located throughout the European Union.

A close-up of a McDonald’s Big Mac box.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Though it doesn’t affect their beef Big Mac burgers, they can no longer trademark the use of this name on their other products. This also means other companies can once again use this name for their own food items.


Supermac’s Applauds Ruling

Supermac’s has already come out to fully applaud this ruling by the ECJ. The restaurant’s managing director, Pat McDonagh, made a statement touting this major move by the court.

A view of a Papa Johns next to a Supermac’s in Ireland.

Source: William Murphy/Wikimedia Commons

“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,” McDonagh said.


A Small Business vs a Giant Corporation

McDonagh also pointed out that this case ruling is a legal win for so many small businesses in the EU, especially as nobody thought that Supermac’s would win against the giant that is McDonald’s.

The inside of a Supermac’s in Galway.

Source: Galway - Rosemary Ave - Supermac's Interior by Joseph Mischyshyn/Wikimedia Commons

McDonagh explained, “We knew when we took on this battle that it was a David versus Goliath scenario.”


Supermac’s Calls Out McDonald’s Trademark Practices

McDonagh also took the time to blast McDonald’s and what he views as trademark bullying.

People in front of a McDonald’s building in the daytime.

Source: Amandine Lerbscher/Unsplash

“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,” McDonagh stated. “We have been saying for years that they have been using trademark bullying. They trademarked the SnackBox, which is one of Supermac’s most popular products, even though the product is not actually offered by them.”


About Supermac’s

Supermac’s is a growing rival to McDonald’s in Europe. Founded in 1978 in Galway, Supermac’s has flourished and now has 120 locations around Ireland.

The exterior of a Supermac’s location in Europe.

Source: Sheila1988/Wikimedia Commons

The eatery sells chicken and beef burgers, as well as chicken nuggets. Thanks to the similarity of their name to McDonald’s, Supermac’s has struggled under these trademark filings.


Other Battles Between Supermac’s and McDonald’s

Supermac’s and McDonald’s have had a few legal battles recently. In 2017, McDonald’s legally blocked McDonagh from successfully registering the name “Supermac’s” as a trademark in the EU.

A McDonald’s sign lit up seen at night.

Source: Michael Förtsch/Unsplash

McDonagh was going to trademark this name as the chain worked to expand outside of Ireland and elsewhere in the world. However, McDonald’s worked to stop this by stating that they cannot use the word “Mac” in their trademark names.


A Supermac’s Win

This eventually led to this ECJ ruling this week. Now, Supermac’s can use the “Mac” name. McDonagh cheered on the ruling and exclaimed that this is a great win for all small businesses.

Many people seen walking in front of a modern McDonald’s building.

Source: Focus Pictures/Unsplash

“We wholeheartedly welcome this judgment as a vindication of small businesses everywhere that stand up to powerful global entities,” McDonagh said.