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

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Kevin (profile), 23 Oct 2019 @ 9:14pm

    So many problems I have with TechDirt's portrayal of this story.

    If the trademark shouldn't be valid, argue against the trademark being valid. That's not mentioned in your story, at all. But so long as it is valid, this is very clearly a violation of trademark law. It isn't even "well, if you squint at it just right, it sort of resembles it." No, it's a wholesale ripoff of the registered mark in the exact same industry. No idea where you get off calling that bullying.

    Woodshed Burgers may have one location, and they seem more sit-down than fast food, but they are certainly competing directly with McDonald's in terms of their menu. Burgers, chicken and fish sandwiches, and fries. Sound familiar?

    Third, Woodshed seems to be going out of its way to misappropriate names for their entrees, such as their chicken chicken sandwich being dubbed the Crispy Colonel. Another is called the Smurf, which while I'm pretty sure there's not a burger-related trademark involved, is certainly not being used just for it being an interesting arrangement of letters.

    Finally, Woodshed itself is one location, but they do have at least one related restaurant with them under "Robert Spencer Hospitality". Doesn't seem to be much on the web about the parent company (and the link on the Robert Spencer logo on Woodshed's site goes nowhere) but it's clear that it's not just one guy running his passion project restaurant.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.