• LittleLaw
  • Posts
  • 🏛️ EU Court: a Big Mac can’t be a chicken sandwich

🏛️ EU Court: a Big Mac can’t be a chicken sandwich

In partnership with

Table of Contents

If you take just one thing from this email…

The European Court of Justice ruled that McDonald's can't use the "Big Mac" trademark on chicken sandwiches in the EU. This decision came after McDonald's couldn't prove they had been using the trademark for chicken products — the trademark was seen as a move to block competition. This ruling shows that trademarks need to be actively used for their registered purpose, or they risk being stripped, even from large companies like McDonald's.


Something exciting…

We’re partnering with TLT, an award-winning national law firm to answer your questions.

Marcus Ketley, Early Careers Advisor at TLT, will be giving the ACTUAL answers on... well... anything you want to know about the firm.

If you’ve got questions like:

  • 🤔 What is the work life balance like at a national firm?

  • 🤔 Can you only do international work at an “international” firm?

  • 🤔 What does the firm really need from its successful applicants?

… or anything else, reply to this email with your question.

(p.s. if you might apply to TLT, don’t waste this chance to get some insider info!)

- Idin

🏛️ EU Court: a Big Mac can’t be a chicken sandwich

Breakfast Burrito Party GIF by McDonald’s All Day Breakfast

Credit: Giphy

What's going on here?

The European Court of Justice has ruled that McDonald's cannot use its trademark for "Big Mac" on chicken sandwiches within the EU.

This has been as a result of a successful challenge by Supermac's — an Irish fast food chain.

What’s the story?

Well, it’s been going on for years.

  • 📆 1996: McDonald's registered the "Big Mac" trademark in the EU, to be used for all food, drink, and restaurant-related activities

  • 📆 2015: Supermac's attempted to register the “Supermac’s” name in the EU (it planned to expand into the European market)

  • 📆 2016: McDonald's opposed Supermac's trademark application, saying the name of the restaurant was too similar to "Big Mac"

  • 📆 2017: Supermac's filed an application to cancel McDonald's exclusive use of "Big Mac" in the EU

  • 📆 This month: The European Union General Court ruled in favour of Supermac's — the Court stripped McDonald's of its "Big Mac" trademark for the purposes it hasn’t been using it for (like chicken sandwiches)

Why did this happen?

McDonald's lost its right to the "Big Mac" trademark for chicken sandwiches in the EU. This is because it couldn't prove continuous and genuine use of the mark on chicken products over the past five years (the actual Big Mac is a beef burger).

The Court believed McDonald’s was registering trademarks without actively using them to block competition from smaller entities (like Supermac's).

👉️ Here’s the Court’s official press release if you want to read it.

Why should law firms care?

EU courts are happy to strip trademark rights — even from big companies like McDonald's — if they aren’t being used as they should.

As courts become more willing to limit the scope of existing trademarks, lawyers will need to advise their clients that having a trademark is not enough. Clients will need to continually use the trademark as intended and provide evidence of this use. This means things like tracking sales, showing marketing efforts, and documenting how the trademark is needed in the business.

When registering new trademarks, law firms should be advising clients to only file trademarks for their actual purpose. Registering trademarks too broadly could end with challenges from competitors (litigation is expensive) — and courts will probably take the rights from you.

Why should businesses care?

We’ve said what trademark-holding companies should be doing to track the use of their trademarks.

But this case helps smaller businesses fighting against large corporations (which tend to hold more intellectual property rights).

Pat McDonagh, managing director of Supermac said: “This is a significant ruling that represents a significant victory for small businesses throughout the world.”

Supermac's can now expand in the EU without being blocked by McDonald's broad trademark claims.

A Supermac’s spokesperson said the chain also had a similar case pending in the UK that, if successful, could lead to an expansion into the British market.


The Daily Newsletter for Intellectually Curious Readers

  • We scour 100+ sources daily

  • Read by CEOs, scientists, business owners and more

  • 3.5 million subscribers

* This is sponsored content


⌛️ u can’t blame me for being the quickest


  • 📉 Macfarlanes has the highest profit margin among the UK Top 50 firms at 52%, ahead of Fieldfisher, and A&O Shearman. Most firms saw a decline in profit margins because of higher costs, including the pay war for junior lawyers. The average margin fell from 33% to 31%, with 39 of 50 firms experiencing a drop. Firms with the highest overall operating profits were Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, and Freshfields.

  • 🇪🇺 The European Central Bank (ECB) cut its key interest rate for the first time since 2019, by 0.25%. The ECB trimmed rates from 4% to 3.75%. But we’ve still not seen any rate cuts in the UK yet. Despite the cuts, ECB doesn’t seem overly confident either. They’ve changed their inflation forecasts for this year and next to higher than its 2% target (inflation increasing could lead to rates staying higher for longer).

  • 📈 Hogan Lovells and Goodwin have both raised salaries. Hogan Lovells has raised new associate salaries to £135,000, with first-year trainees now earning £56,000 and second-years £61,000. Goodwin Procter increased new associate salaries to £175,000, with first-year trainees getting £55,000 and second-years £60,000 starting in September. This trend follows salary increases at other City firms.

  • 🍏 Apple is integrating ChatGPT into Siri and other apps. This will allow Siri to use ChatGPT for tasks like generating meal ideas from your garden ingredients. You can include photos or ask questions about your documents. ChatGPT will also enhance writing tools, helping you create and revise content. Privacy is a key focus — the integration will give no data to OpenAI and your device’s IP addresses will be obscured. Here’s the video announcement from Apple.

  • 🗳️ Hogan Lovells is partnering with The Politics Project to boost voter participation in the upcoming UK elections. The 2023 Electoral Commission report showed 8 million people are missing from the electoral register. To help, the firm created a Voter Handbook detailing how to register, voting methods, and new voter ID requirements. Hogan Lovells believes companies can increase voter turnout by sharing this information with employees (read the handbook).



  • 📹️ Free application help: If you're applying to commercial law firms, check out my YouTube channel for actionable tips and an insight into the lifestyle of a commercial lawyer in London.

How did you find today's newsletter?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.