Last week Mr Supermac’s Pat McDonagh announced on radio that he will fight McDonald’s because they have trademarks registered that will interfere with Supermac’s ability to carry out their business. He was asked to give some examples and he mentioned “BigMac”, the “Mc….” Prefix and “Snackbox”. He claims that Mc Donald’s is sitting on trademarks that they have no intention of using just to make business difficult for Supermac’s.

I have to admit that I have no personal affinity to Supermac’s at all. When I first came to Ireland, they appeared to me like a cheaper, lower level Burger place. I had no specific reason for thinking that, but we sometimes make judgements that are not necessarily based on facts. I guess the appearance of the Supermac restaurants did appear worse than other burger places. I also should say that I am not a big fan of McDonald’s either, but I have been a McDonald’s customer and I have never been a Supermac’s customer.

So with that “admission” out of the way, let’s have a look at the three examples that McDonagh gave for trademark hogging:

He is unhappy with the fact that McDonald’s is claiming the Big Mac name for themselves and he thinks this is not just. Hmm, the BigMac has its own Wikipedia Page and there I learnt that it was introduced by McDonald’s in 1968. The first Supermac’s Restaurant was opened in Galway in 1978. Now you could question if a name like that should be protectable at all, but if it is, then I think Supermac’s rightly doesn’t get to use the trademarked phrase. 10 years!

The next thing he has a problem with is the Prefix “Mc”. McDonald’s even own “McInternet” and “McKids”. I can see his point there, but really, if your business depends on COPYING the big competitor and you can’t run it without using their names then maybe something is wrong with your business. Let’s face it, when Supermac’s was founded (30 years after McDonald’s!), it is highly likely that the name “Supermac’s” wasn’t handed to McDonagh by Lady Inspiration herself, but that it was an intentional copy. So is the pot calling the kettle black here?

And finally the Snackbox, the term that intrigued me most. It is a good term and McDonagh claims that “McDonald’s has trademarked the SnackBox, a product that is synonymous with Supermac’s.” He is right that McDonald’s is not even offering Snackboxes and therefore shouldn’t get that trademark, BUT was it really Supermac’s who invented the Snackbox????? For me the “Snackbox” is synonymous with my local (Italian) chipper, NOT with Supermac’s. But maybe I am wrong. Who knows the history of the term “Snackbox”? Nobody should get that term, by the way!

All in all, you could think that McDonagh should focus on his own business and should lead instead of copy. That trademark row seems to be total nonsense.