32 Years Ago, McDonald’s Tried to Trademark ‘Mc’—It Didn’t Work

A landmark case in intellectual property

McDonald's sign
It's a good time for the great taste of ... intellectual property. Getty

Earlier this year, McDonald’s lost a legal battle in the E.U. after attempting to keep Irish burger chain Supermac from expanding.

Burgers weren’t the issue; it was “mac”—three letters that, like “Mc,” the Golden Arches contends are its sole right to use in the market, at least when it comes to food. The E.U. Intellectual Property Office’s ruling made headlines the world over—but this kind of fight is nothing new. In its Nov. 2, 1987, issue, Adweek (which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) devoted a full page to covering the chain’s IP militancy.

“McDonald’s uses a combination of cajolery, intimidation and even outright payoffs in some cases to keep the Mc to itself,” we wrote.

At the time, McDonald’s had fought 50 legal battles over “Mc,” including one against a tiny eatery in Fishkill, N.Y., called McBagel’s. Well, that’s what it used to be called, anyway.

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.