THE MANY Irish people with family names starting with ‘Mc’ are being deprived of the right to use a derivation of their names because fast food giant McDonald’s is fanatically protecting its brand, a lawyer said last week.
Overweight kids have for years been blaming McDonald’s for their weight gain, even going so far as to sue in the United States. But recently, the shoe was on the other foot when McDonald’s took action in the Australian Trade Marks Office against a Queensland intellectual property lawyer and partner at law firm McCullough Robertson for printing the name ‘McBrat’ on a football team’s shorts. Lawyer Malcolm McBratney sponsors the Brisbane football team, which he said has an Irish heritage.
McDonald’s claimed the McBrat name should not be registered because it is too similar to its McKids trade mark. Earlier this year McBratney was determined to have the McDonald’s claim struck out, claiming he is “not about to let a US-based multinational tell me or my team whether a derivation of [the family name] can be displayed on some footy shorts or registered as a trade mark”.
“Any intellectual property lawyer knows trade marks are important so I’m just following my own advice and trying to have mine registered,” he said.
McDonald’s was unfairly trying to extend its trade mark to cover other names starting with ‘Mc’, said McBratney. “This is shaping up to be a real McBunfight over McDonald’s’ fanatical protection of its brand name.”
McBratney said the family name had been used in Ireland since the 1600s, and argued that he did not think McDonald’s could tell him, or his football team, that he could not register a version of his own name as a trade mark.
The dispute was reignited last week in the Trade Marks Office, with McBratney filing an action asking that the McDonald’s trade mark McKids be removed from the trade mark register. McBratney argued the McKids trade mark had not been used in Australia since being registered in 1987. This, he said, was one of the first cases in which an individual has challenged McDonald’s over one of its trade marks.
“A trade mark can be removed for non-use if it hasn’t been used in Australia for a rolling three year period, and that is the case with Mckids,” he said. “I think it smacks of corporate arrogance that even though McDonald’s is not using the McKids trade mark in Australia it still thinks it can block the registration of a separate trade mark that has nothing to do with its business.”
“What it boils down to is that McDonald’s seems to be trying to own not only the McDonald name but everything beginning with Mc. There are a lot of people with Irish and Scottish heritage who’d dispute that, including me, and I’m prepared to take them on.”
McBratney said his touché application to remove the McKids trade mark would show that while every corporate entity had a right to protect legitimate trade marks, if they registered a trade mark they had to use it. “It’s a case of McDonald’s being given a taste of its own medicine. For years it has been using its corporate muscle to block what many would consider to be perfectly reasonable trade mark applications.”
“McDonald’s is renowned around the world for registering names that begin with Mc, even though it uses few of them. For example, it has had McKids registered since 1987 but doesn’t use the name in Australia — yet it still wants to use the registration to block the use of a completely different name.”
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