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McDonald's loses Big Mac trademark battle in EU

The European Union Intellectual Property Office, or EUIPO, revoked McDonald's Corp.'s trademark for its Big Mac burger in the EU after it found that the U.S. fast-food giant was not using the trademark according to EU law.

The office handed down its decision more than a year after Irish fast-food chain Supermac's Holdings Ltd. filed the case.

On April 11, 2017, Supermac's filed an appeal to the EUIPO to cancel McDonald's use of the Big Mac trademark, saying the name "was not put to genuine use within the European Union" during the five-year period prior to the filing of the appeal.

In follow-up documents submitted by Supermac's, the chain also argued that the trademark only applies to McDonald's "sandwich including a beef patty, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a special sauce," and that it does not cover any other goods.

Supermac's, which is based in Dublin, also said the trademark applies only in Germany, France and the U.K., and not in other member states of the EU.

McDonald's subsequently submitted evidence to the EUIPO to prove its "genuine use" of the brand. The company's evidence includes three affidavits containing sales figures for the Big Mac sandwiches for the five-year period between 2011 and 2016, as well as printouts and brochures of advertising posters in German, French and English, showing the Big Mac label.

In its ruling, the EUIPO said its cancellation division found that McDonald's evidence "is insufficient to establish genuine use of the trademark." It also found that the restaurant chain failed to show how many of the products bearing the Big Mac packaging were offered for sale or sold.

Following the decision, Supermac's founder and managing director, Pat McDonagh, told The Irish Independent in an interview that the judgment represents a victory for small businesses around the world.

"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 was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in an email to S&P Global Market Intelligence on Jan. 16, McDonald's said it is disappointed with the decision, saying the EUIPO "did not take into account the substantial evidence submitted by McDonald's proving use of our Big Mac mark throughout Europe."

The Chicago-based chain added that it will appeal the decision.

The case follows McDonald's appeal in 2015 to reject Supermac's application to register its brand across Europe, saying it would create confusion for customers.