Supermac’s wins ‘Big Mac’ trademark case with McDonald’s at Europe’s highest court

Galway-based food chain argued Big Mac restaurant rights had restricted potential European expansion

Split image showing Supermac's outlet in Derry's Foyleside and (right), McDonald's golden arches.
The European Court of Justice has found in favour of Supermac's over a challenge to McDonald's use of the Big Mac trademark for restaurants in Europe.

Irish fast food chain Supermac’s has won a case against McDonald’s at Europe’s highest court over the use of the ‘Big Mac’ trademark.

The global food giant had challenged a 2019 ruling that forced it to relinquish its trademark for the Big Mac in Europe for restaurants and chicken products.

But the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found in Supermac’s favour on Wednesday, determining McDonald’s had not proven genuine use of the Big Mac trademark as a restaurant name.

McDonald’s originally registered the ‘Big Mac’ trademark in Europe during 1996, for both food products and crucially under a category for restaurant names.

It effectively gave McDonald’s naming rights to call a restaurant Big Mac, and allowing it to argue against Supermac’s opening its outlets across the EU on the basis it could confuse customers.

Pat McDonagh’s Galway-based food chain, which currently has just one outlet in Northern Ireland, originally challenged the trademark use in 2017, claiming McDonald’s had not made genuine use of the trademark in the previous five years.

The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) initially found in Supermac’s favour.

Supermac's managing director Pat McDonagh has unveiled plans to re-open 15 take-away outlets on a limited basis. Picture by Supermac's/PA Wire
Supermac's boss Pat McDonagh.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the ECJ upheld Supermac’s case, determining McDonald’s “has not proved that the contested mark has been put to genuine use”.

It said McDonald’s had not proven use of the Big Mac trademark for chicken products or services “associated with operating restaurants”.

The ruling is not expected to affect McDonald’s trademark protections for its famous Big Mac burger.

The Supermac’s legal battle dates back to a period when Pat Donagh’s company was considering expansion into Britain, before it left the EU.

A separate legal case is currently working its way through the UK legal system, with a hearing expected later this year.

Supermac’s has around 120 outlets on the island of Ireland.

It previously operated numerous locations around the north, but currently just lists a single premises north of the border at Derry’s Foyleside shopping centre.

In an interview earlier this year, Pat McDonagh said the company is working on opening additional new outlets in Northern Ireland.

“We have been planning to expand into the North for a while and it is taking shape,” he told the Irish Independent.