McDonald's Bullies Local Canadian Burger Joint Over 'Filet O' Fish' Trademark

from the not-lovin'-it dept

It is perhaps a bit surprising that we don't have an absolute ton of stories about fast-food giant McDonald's here, given the sheer size and fame of the company. In fact, the last post we did about the company was in the wake of it having just lost its "Big Mac" trademark in the EU, a circumstance the company was obviously displeased with. Still, McDonald's has certainly not been shy about protecting its IP in the past, even occasionally to extreme lengths.

The most recent example of this behavior concerns McDonald's bullying a local Canadian food joint over its "Effing Filet 'O Fish" sandwich.

Paul Shufelt, the owner and chef behind the local Woodshed Burgers restaurant, wasn’t loving what he saw when he opened his email on Wednesday. In his inbox was a formal cease and desist from McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada over one of his restaurant’s burgers: the Effing Filet O’ Fish. The name of the burger, the letter argued, violated the registered McDonald’s trademark of the phrase Filet O’ Fish, the name of one of the fast food giant’s most prolific sandwiches.

“McDonald’s is concerned that your restaurant’s use of Effing Filet O’ Fish, particularly in association with a sandwich or burger menu item, is likely to cause confusion among consumers and is also likely to diminish and dilute the strength of McDonald’s trademark,” the letter read.

Okay, so a couple of things here. First, Woodshed is a tiny 40 seat joint that is a local eatery and isn't the kind of place one goes and is confused into thinking it's a McDonald's. Second, the "Effing Filet 'O Fish" sandwich at Woodshed is a fairly descriptive name, given that it's a sandwich chiefly comprised of an effing filet of fish. That point isn't quite so strong, since McDonald's can probably argue that it's use of the mark has transformed it from something generic to something closely associated with McDonald's.

But thirdly, if McDonald's thought this was going to get Shufelt to change the name to something McDonald's would consider innocuous, well...

In compliance with the cease and desist, Shufelt renamed his burger to the McEffing Fish Filet — his flippant way of complying with the massive company’s cease and desist.

“Let them come at us, I guess, and they can have a pissing match with a small, 40-seat restaurant in Edmonton over the name of a burger,” Shufelt said.

Great job, McDonald's lawyers. This is important work you're doing.

Filed Under: canada, effing filet o fish, filet o fish, likelihood of confusion, mceffing fish filet, paul shufeit, trademark
Companies: mcdonald's, woodshed burgers


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  1. identicon
    Anon, 24 Oct 2019 @ 10:38am

    Re:

    Too true. In this case I disagree with the article. Size doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if it's one 40-seater or the whole Burger King chain - if someone else calls their fish sandwich Filet o' Fish they are copying MCD's. How big a restaurant chain does it have to be before it's Ok for them to enforce a name? And if say, Wendy's sold the same thing and McD sued, and Wendy's lawyers said "but you said it was OK for Woodshed". You either defend your trademarks because they are trademarks, or they become the aspirin and kleenex of the commercial world. besides, if the Woodshed version tastes very different 9or really bad, or really good) it can confuse people who expect that is what that name means. You can call a fish sandwich a lot of other things, or leave in he "f" or whatever. Woodshed decided to deliberately copy, and the essence of trademark law is "no, you can't copy".


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