On April 27, 2009, in Malaysia, McDonald’s lost an infringement lawsuit against the Malaysian fast food outlet McCurry. The Malaysian Court of Appeals ruled that McDonald’s did not have exclusive rights to the “Mc” prefix. Justice Gopal Sri Ram of the Appellate Court found that the High Court erred in assuming McDonald’s could have a monopoly over the use of “Mc” for food and advertising.
In 1999, McDonald’s brought a suit against McCurry, short for Malaysian Chicken Curry, for infringement of McDonald’s trademark of the prefix “Mc.” McDonald’s operates approximately 185 restaurants in Malaysia and argued that the use of “Mc” with Curry was deceptive, and therefore, McCurry was misrepresenting itself as being associated with McDonald’s. McCurry counter-argued that their menu, which is comprised of teh tarik, roti canai, nasi lemak, fish head curry, chicken tandoori, naan bread, tosai, and other curry dishes, was distinguishable from McDonald’s burgers and fries. Additionally, McCurry argued that McDonald’s could not have a monopoly over the phrase because “Mc” has been used for centuries by, for example, the Scottish who use “Mc” in surnames. Over five years later, on September 7, 2006, the High Court ruled that McDonald’s had exclusive rights over the “Mc” prefix. Justice Siti Mariah Ahmad found that the use of “Mc” and the colors of the logo could cause confusion and deception between the two restaurants. McCurry was ordered to pay damages to McDonald’s, but it was allowed to remove the “c” and be referred to as M Curry.
On April 27, 2009, the Appellate Court reversed this decision and the “c” was returned to M Curry. Justice Sri Ram explained that the logos were distinguishable and would normally not be confused with each other. The well-known McDonald’s logo consists of a golden arch in front of a red background. On the other hand, the McCurry logo consists of the words “Restoran McCurry” in white on a red background with a picture of a chicken giving a thumbs-up sign. Justice Sri Ram also reasoned that none of McCurry’s food items contained the term “Mc” such as McDonald’s McChicken and McNugget. Justice Sri Ram overturned the trial court’s decision and stated that “[w]here the learned judge, with respect, erred is to assume that McDonald’s had a monopoly in the use of the prefix ‘Mc’ on a signage or in the conduct of business.” The Court, therefore, held that McDonald’s did not have exclusive rights over the term “Mc”, and McCurry was revived.
The battle with McCurry is not the first time McDonald’s has been involved in a trademark dispute over the “Mc” prefix. Previously, McDonald’s lost cases against restaurants McChina in the United Kingdom and McNoodles in Singapore. However, in the United States, McDonald’s has won trademark battles against the restaurants McDarhma’s and McBagel’s. It will be interesting to see the effect this decision has nationally and internationally on other prefixes used by large international companies–such as Apple’s “i” (iPod, iPhone, etc) and Lenovo’s “think” for their products.