The recent introduction of a new burger has stirred some rather large beef between two iconic fast-food giants, McDonalds and Hungry Jacks.
It began with an ad campaign launched by Hungry Jacks to promote their new ‘Big Jack’ burger, a name which most members of the general public immediately compared to McDonalds’ famous ‘Big Mac’. Facebook posts prior to the release of the TV ads also claimed, “There’s something… ‘special’ about our new Big Jack” followed by a winking emoji.
While most found the advertising to be comedic, McDonalds was not “lovin’ it” and took significant issue with the new burger’s resemblance to the ‘Big Mac’ and filed a claim in the Federal Court against Hungry Jacks, alleging that the Big Jack infringed McDonalds’ intellectual property. They also argued that the registration of ‘Big Jack’ as a trademark was made in bad faith.
Undeterred, Hungry Jacks has since hit back at McDonalds in their next series of recent ads, acknowledging that ‘Someone’s suing Hungry Jacks,’ but that Australians were unlikely to get the Big Jack confused with ‘some American burger’, as they claimed the Big Jack was ‘clearly bigger’. They also defended the name of the burger, saying it was intended as a play on the name of the company and a link to Jack Cowin, the founder and current owner of Hungry Jacks.
Sydney chain Rashay’s also decided to jump into the mix with their Big MacJac, and were swiftly handed a cease and desist letter from the golden arches.
It is a very amusing and interesting case and to prove trademark infringement to the Federal Court, McDonalds will have to argue two points. Firstly, they will have to show that Hungry Jacks’ ‘Big Jack’ trademark is substantially identical with or deceptively similar to McDonalds’ ‘Big Mac’ trademark under section 44 of the Trade Marks Act 1995 – which will hinge on whether consumers are likely to be confused or assume a connection between the two burgers. This could be difficult to prove given the well-known rivalry between the two companies; is the average person likely to believe that a collaboration is going on between the two, or that they are the same burger?
Secondly, under section 60 of the Trade Marks Act 1995, they will have to show that the McDonalds’ Big Mac trademark has acquired a reputation in Australia and because of that reputation, consumers are likely to be deceived. Proving that the Big Mac has a reputation will be easy enough; more difficulty may arise, again, with arguing that consumers will be confused.
In addition, McDonalds has also opposed the Big Jack trademark under section 62A of the Trade Marks Act 1995, arguing that Hungry Jacks registered the Big Jack trademark in ‘bad faith’ – alleging that they showed ‘flagrant and wilful disregard’ of McDonalds’ trademarks.
This is far from the first time McDonalds has filed a lawsuit over intellectual property. In 1994, San Francisco coffee shop ‘McCoffee’ was forced to change its name after McDonalds claimed they infringed on their trademark. Similarly, a restaurant in the Philippines named ‘McJoy’ was required to change their name to ‘MyJoy’ when McDonalds made the decision to expand into the country.
It’s not all wins though and in 1996, a Denmark-based hotdog vendor Allan Pederson, trading under the name ‘McAllan’, successfully defeated a claim filed by the fast food giant after the court ruled that consumers were unlikely to mistake a street food stand for a McDonald’s franchise. Denmark was clearly not “lovin’ it”.
So how will the matter of the Big Mac v Big Jack be settled? Presently, the judge presiding over the case, Justice Burley, has moved the case to mediation and given McDonalds’ history of litigation over trademarks, it’s unlikely they’ll agree to meat in the middle and this will continue to be an interesting case to watch in 2021.
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