Skip to main content

SUPERSIZE THE MCDAMAGES: Hungry Jacks vs McDonalds in the Trademark Showdown


Mac Your Day Today!


You may have seen in the news of McDonald's commencing proceedings against Hungry Jacks of the Big Jack burger. Aside from the quite frankly hilarious headlines, the actual implications of this matter in the Australian hospitality industry where burgers are king could change the scope of what is legally enforceable for intellectual property rights.




For a while, McDonald's was king of all fast food. The golden arches were synonymous with deliciousness, and for many of us, a purchase at McDonald's was at least a weekly occurrence. We were all very content incorporating McDonald's into our lives and the other fast-food chains stayed silent, terrified of saying McDonald's out loud three times just in case, like Beetlejuice, it appeared on their doorstep. However, almost at an instant, things changed, and we began to shift away from fries and closer to kale smoothies. The market became fractured, and the dominance of the McDonalds became less of public knowledge. But despite all this, one of the significant staying points of McDonald's remained, the authority of the Big Mac.


The Big Mac is the king of all burgers. This has never not been the case, it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and in fact, I have heard rumours that even in the times when sliced bread was the most incredible thing, it was only invented for that middle layer of the Big Mac.


It should come as no surprise that due to its dominance, the Big Mac has been remade in almost every burger place in the world, it can be reinvented as a sauce, as lettuce leaf, even as a cake but it is still clear what that burger is. McDonald's is very aware of this, as well. That is why you will see a photo of one every time you go to their stores, they know what you want, what you are there for and they are happy to remind you.


But what is the value of the Big Mac? It isn't the recipe, unlike the Flaming Homer from The Simpsons, the ingredients of a Big Mac are pretty well known, 'two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun'. For McDonald's, the value is in the name, or more specifically, the trademark.




McDonald's has an extensive history of protecting its intellectual property. If you go to Wikipedia, there is an entire page dedicated to lawsuits commenced by them. One thing is exact, they like their trademarks, and they don't tolerate others using them. The Big Mac trademark was registered in 1973, it has been around for a while, and McDonald's renewed this trademark until at least 2028. The Big Jack trademark was filed by Hungry Jacks in late 2019 and accepted in June this year. Shortly, afterwards, they released the Big Jack onto the public.


What happened next was straight, the playbook that McDonald's has adopted countless times before. Presumably a very lengthy cease and desist letter. As said, this is not new. In 2018, Burger Urge received a similar message over their Big Pac burger. To which, a representative from McDonald's said "This is simply a marketing stunt to leverage our well-established and iconic brand. We have no issue with the burger itself; however, the name and promotion are infringing on our trademark by clearly mirroring our famous Big Mac," a McDonald's spokesperson said. But presumably, Hungry Jacks has differed from Burger Urge in their approach to dealing with this, they didn't withdraw their burger.


The issue as to why this is important is what happened one of the last times McDonald's went to court to protect their trademark. In the UK, McDonald's pursued a company over the use of the term 'Mc'. The case went for over 9 years, and the result was the court ruling that McDonald's doesn't own the rights to prefix 'Mc', this was actually repeated in Australia in 2005 to the same result. It should be noted that in between these two cases, in the Philippines, it was found that McDonald's did have rights to the mark 'Mac' used a prefix. 




The consequences of this could be dire, if McDonald's is successful, it may lead to a reinvigoration of the McDonald's corporate machine with new trademarks over every trademark possible under the sun, and if Hungry Jacks were to win,  it poses the question what good is a trademark if even the Big Mac isn't safe?


Trademark infringement in fast food restaurants isn't unusual and but more often than not, they resolve themselves before proceedings being commenced.


Only time will tell where this case will end up; however, for now, it is becoming clear that perhaps fried chicken is the safer legal option for dinner.


If you want to find out more about why trademarks could help you protect your business, read this article next!




Popular posts from this blog

OFF-BRAND - How a high-fashion brand and a local ice cream shop have come to blows over intellectual property

OFF-BRAND  How a high-fashion brand and an ice cream shop have come to blows over intellectual property In the various industries that are out there, not too many are as different as fashion and ice cream. One is involved in providing happiness, comfort and everything nice in this world and that other provides a sharp reminder that maybe that extra scoop of ice cream was too much. But suffice to say, a rift between the two industries is not something that you would expect to find.  But as hype culture and the obsessive fandom on the internet have grown, the industries have been growing closer and closer together. But sadly, not in the way you think, we are still a few years off wearable ice cream. Instead, there is now a good chance that your local ice creamery sells merchandise. Less impressive, for sure. But this has become a staple for restaurants with even just a modicum of goodwill attached to their name and why not? If customers are willing to pay an extra $50 so that people will

Green Eggs and Hamm

  Green Eggs and Hamm How a crotch shot of John Hamm and Dr Seuss have sparked the most intense debate on fair use dealing in copyright in the last ten years.  In 2013, John Hamm was in full swing, sipping cocktails and filming the wildly successful  Mad Men  however in years to come he may be remembered for something much more different. One uneventful day, John Hamm was photographed going commando and, thus changed how we see intellectual property rights on the internet forever.  Like all paparazzi photos, it was promptly uploaded to the internet and licenced for use. Unbeknownst to the photographer, the image was then used in an article by the Huffington Post, titled "25 Things You Wish You Hadn't Learned In 2013 And Must Forget In 2014." The writer of the piece turned the photo into a humourous GIF with the intention of mocking people who would want to see the picture and satirising the idea that it was news at all.  The photographer later registered the photo's

False Promises and Virtue Signalling - How to Get Away with Slacktivism in a Corporate World

False Promises and Virtue Signalling - How to Get Away with Slacktivism in a Corporate World  On the dark streets of Gotham one light shines through the darkness, one symbol for apathetic support of issues in search of personal gain, criminals cower… (well at least initially) at the sight of the 'Virtue Signal'. Virtue signalling has become an ever-increasing issue as we become more and more connected via online platforms. Because of this increased connection, there is a more significant amount of pressure on people to have something to say resulting in a churn of meaningless and self-serving support of issues which never amount to more than a Facebook post. This has been copied in the business world as well as companies realised quite quickly that there is a financial benefit to having your brand being associated with supporting an issue. Mind you, not actually doing something about the issue but merely being associated with doing something and there is a clearcut difference b