John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
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January 15 2019
After a lengthy battle with Irish burger francise Supermac’s, McDonald’s loses trademark protection in the European Union for the term Big Mac. Here’s the story, from the Irish Times, followed by a PDF of the actual EU Intellectual Property Office ruling:
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Key point number one: Despite the article focusing on the non-use of Big Mac as a restaurant name, McDonald’s lost all exclusive uses of the term Big Mac throughout the EU, including on its signature sandwich. Now anyone can make a sandwich and market it as a Big Mac.

Key point number two: McDonald’s trademark protection remains strong in the U.S.

What’s mind-blowing is that the EU Intellectual Property Office ruled that all the websites showing the Big Mac, all the marketing materials for the Big Mac, all the menu boards and posters and coupons that were submitted as evidence of genuine use ... didn’t amount to evidence of genuine use.

And this is where either the legal team or the marketing team fatally blundered.

First, the EUIPO discounted the marketing materials because they all came from McDonald’s itself, with no proof of dates of use or data showing that the marketing led to actual sales. Yes, McDonald’s apparently submitted no evidence that anyone looked at an ad or a coupon for a Big Mac and bought a Big Mac. In this day of big data and lead-to-sale conversion tracking, that should’ve been so, so easy to quantify, but it seems no such evidence was submitted.

Second, it looks like no one did any independent research in defense of the trademark. Just a casual street survey (“What do you think of when I say ‘Big Mac?’”) would’ve been conclusive, or at least very strong evidence of the trademark’s existing use and meaning.

In short, McDonald’s seems to have defended its trademark like it was a creative presentation, when it should have made a data presentation.

In the scheme of things, losing the trademark on Big Mac will probably have little impact on McDonald’s bottom line in the EU. It’ll be hard for any restaurant, even Supermac’s projected expansion into Europe, to dilute McDonald’s branding by much.

Yet, I can’t help but be reminded of a small local sub and pizza shop that sells a sandwich called the Better Bird. It’s that shop’s version of a Denny’s menu item called the Super Bird: thin-sliced turkey, melted Swiss cheese, bacon, and tomato on toasted sourdough bread. The Better Bird adds avocado, and, arguably, higher quality ingredients. I like Denny’s Super Bird. But, I like this small shop’s Better Bird better.

If I were a small fast food restaurant owner in the EU, I’d be sorely tempted to work up a burger called the Better Mac.

And if I were McDonald’s, I’d appeal or resubmit the application with better data.
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January 7 2019
Most cross-promotional products, like movie tie-ins, come off as forced or, worse, meh. But smart ones can be a lot of fun and good for both brands. Here’s a classic Toyota/Yamaha mash-up, from 1974, from Ride Apart via MSN Autos:
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This was in the heyday of custom vans and motocross, before both went commercial and one eventually petered out. And, this was before Toyota and Yamaha became motoring giants in the U.S.

I remember these Yamahauler ads. And I remember thinking at the time – and I would’ve been around 12 years old then, but very into cars – that it wouldn’t have taken much for Toyota to have put a Yamahauler-like port-of-entry faux-custom into production. A bed kit, wheels, and a lick of paint could’ve made a nice little halo longbed for the brand, much nicer than the SR5 package that came out a year or two later. And it surprised me that no dealers made up their own to sell.

Instead, we had to wait decades for a Ford/Harley-Davidson production pickup, itself not a bad concept and, like the original Yamahauler, spot-on for the times. It’s no wonder it’s coming back for 2019.

But, oh, Toyota could’ve been the first.
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December 14 2018
When is a logo a logo? When it’s not merely a “collection of geometric shapes,” according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Here’s the story about American Airlines’ two-year fight to get its logo copyrighted, from the Los Angeles Times:
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I like how the agency’s commentary went on to say that the logo lacked creativity. Everyone’s a critic.

The thing is, sometimes designers – and copywriters – get too clever for their own good. This logo, for instance, is said to integrate wings, an eagle, red white and blue, a star, and the letter “A” for American and Airlines. Which sounds brilliant, except that all of it works only if you pay equal attention to the white space (in keeping with the red white and blue thing), which, in turn, all but ensures that only designers will appreciate its creativity.

Well, designers and those in on the presentation.
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

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