Everyone Being Dumb About IP: McDonald's No Longer Offering Dope Custom PS5 Controllers In Australia

from the all-about-control dept

If you search for stories about McDonald's on Techdirt, you will come away with the impression that the company, like many large corporate entities, puts heavy emphasis on its intellectual property rights. Sony, the company responsible for the PlayStation consoles, exudes a similar reputation, despite some recent moves to loosen its IP grip as of late. So, just to be clear, everyone involved in this story tends to trend toward the more restrictive end of the IP spectrum.

Which makes it super-duper stupid that McDonald's Australia had a plan to offer up customized PlayStation 5 controllers, but never bothered to formalize any part of this plan with Sony. And, if you're like me, that's a shame because the cosmetics on the controllers are pretty dang fun.

Shortly after the announcement, McDonald's Australia had to issue a follow up cancelling the whole thing. It turns out that nobody at the company bothered to get in touch with Sony before the announcement and, well, you know what happened next.

As of last week McDonalds Australia had been planning on giving away a bunch of custom PS5 controllers, each plastered with a burgers + fries motif in celebration of the company’s 50th birthday (in Australia). Weirdly, the international dining behemoth forgot to ask Sony about this first.

You’d think that would be the first thing a company with an actual legal team would have thought to do if you were going to be mentioning “PlayStation 5" and using a controller image as part of your own marketing, but nope! McDonalds just got straight to it, announcing plans to give the controllers away as part of a competition, along with sending some out to local streamers as well.

So, Sony stepped in and put an end to the entire promotion. While that is absolutely Sony's right, it's also incredibly stupid. What, really, is the end result of this promotion? Sure, McDonald's is attempting to sell more of its fast food. But it also would have served as essentially free advertising for Sony's PS5, wouldn't it? The giveaway was part of McDonald's upcoming "Stream Week", an event that also had to be canceled. And the communication to the public by McDonald's puts the blame squarely on Sony for that.

Sony PlayStation has not authorised the use of its controller in promotional materials related to the proposed Stream Week event and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. McDonald’s stream week has been postponed and Sony PlayStation controllers will not be included in the giveaway.

Which is how Sony managed to turn an opportunity for the free promotion of its consoles in Australia into a PR negative, where the company is now blamed for the delay of McDonalds' Stream Week. It didn't have to be this way. Sony could have instead reached out to McDonald's and quickly worked something out, given that both sides in all of this would have benefited.

But, no, instead the company is apparently reinvigorated with the IP maximalist attitude of control over everything. That this concerns the control over video game controllers is at least partial evidence that the universe is not without a sense of irony.

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Filed Under: marketing, playstation 5, playstation controllers, ps5
Companies: microsoft, sony


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  • icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 4 Aug 2021 @ 5:45pm

    Is it Sony's right?

    I'm not convinced that this is Sony's right to stop here. If McDonald's is simply buying up legit PS5 controllers and wrapping them in its own design and then giving those away, where's the infringement? It's a perfectly reasonable resale right...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DocGerbil100 (profile), 4 Aug 2021 @ 9:06pm

      Re: Is it Sony's right?

      I doubt it's the controllers themselves, so much as the use of trademarks to promote essentially unrelated goods and services. Sony's always been very big on getting hefty licensing fees from anyone doing anything other than the most straightforward retailing of Sony products -- it's a major part of how and why the UK's independent PS1 game-rental and grey-import markets were all but completely shut down, back in the day.

      Without knowing more about Australian law, I can hardly guarantee it, but if it's anything like UK law, the courts would most likely side heavily with Sony. I don't think that Sony should have quite so much power, but under Aussie law, I suspect it probably does.

      I must admit, I'm tempted to side with Sony, as well. If anyone in the world should have the lawyers to know about licensing rights and can afford to pay an exorbitant license fee, it's McDonald's. Their not doing so seems like rude, unprofessional hypocrisy at best and a deliberate attempt to evade their legal obligations at worst.

      They should have known better.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2021 @ 1:14am

        Re: Re: Is it Sony's right?

        Isn't McDonald's use of PS5 nominative, describing what they intend to give away. and if the buy the controllers, they can add any decals they want to their own property.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 7:26am

        Re: Re: Is it Sony's right?

        Yes, that seems to be the main issue. I’m honestly surprised that McDonald’s never approached Sony about this tbh.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 8:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Is it Sony's right?

          Well when your legal team is used to just bulldozing anyone who gets near your ip, you start to think you've got the power.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 5:19am

      Re: Is it Sony's right?

      operative word - reasonable

      headtilt are you new??
      Reasonable NEVER EVER applies to IP things.

      See also: TechDirt stories since well forever.
      My pick would be the text books imported from other areas going to SCOTUS to decide if he had a right to buy things & then resell them.

      Perhaps if they had included disclaimers about trademarks belonged to others blah blah blah (like in cosmetics advertising) they might have managed to skate past this.

      I can make a website that says Sony sucks, but I can't buy controllers add a sucks sticker next to the Sony logo and give them away?

      While people might like seeing these giant IP bullies swinging on each other, the problem is when they come to an agreement it in no way going to work out well for us. See also: How many seconds of sampling is okay and how many means 90% of the profits goes to the person sampled label.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2021 @ 6:39am

        Re: Re: Is it Sony's right?

        I expect there's no ban on buying and giving away, it's the advertising aspect that has the lawyers dreaming of billable hours. In a reasonable world, all McD would have to do is put a footnote on the Ad "not endorsed by Sony".

        It's the same sort of shit that tries to claim I can't use product X in a film without their approval.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2021 @ 8:55am

      Re: Is it Sony's right?

      I'm not convinced that this is Sony's right to stop here.

      Of course it's not, but McDonald's is also an "IP-maximalist" company. It's reminiscent of how film companies will seek permission for any brand that appears or is mentioned in a movie. They don't actually need permission to have two characters talk about drinking Coke, but the film industry doesn't want to set any precedent for "permissionless" uses of things. People might then learn of things like fair use (which they've made sure doesn't exist on Youtube or in Australia).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2021 @ 9:53am

      Re: Is it Sony's right?

      People in charge of the promotion probably thought it reasonable too, or they wouldn't have done it without negotiating permission first. But Sony thinks it's their right and even if McDonalds wanted to litigate it the campaign would be put off anyway.

      Easier to just not use the controllers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Lostinlodos (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 3:47pm

      Re: Is it Sony's right?

      I don’t know about the Australian laws (I’d have to make some calls to friends) because I can’t find anything remotely close to this idea.
      In in most countries it’s perfectly legal to skin someone else’s something as
      Long as the source is recognised.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2021 @ 9:34pm

    Spambot goes BRRRRRRR

    Please deal with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 5:22am

      Re: Spambot goes BRRRRRRR

      ProTip: Flag and move on.
      They do the best they can & our part in helping is flagging.

      There isn't a good way to stop spammers that is 100% perfect, the 4 calls from "Amazon" on my landline about charges totalling 5K & would be billed unless I called to cancel it is just a reminder that scammers just evolve faster & survive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2021 @ 11:15am

      Re: Spambot goes BRRRRRRR

      Actually, this particular reply to spam has already become spam.

      So, yeah.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 5 Aug 2021 @ 9:44am

    Next week. “McDonald’s is happy to announce that you can get a free XBox controller during Stream Week.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      hegemon13, 5 Aug 2021 @ 11:07am

      Re:

      That was my first thought. If Microsoft doesn't jump at this chance for free, positive PR and goodwill, they're doing it wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 5 Aug 2021 @ 7:53pm

      Re:

      Why not "McDonald’s is happy to announce that you can get a free Nint-

      The rest of this comment has been blocked by Nintendo Co., Ltd.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 12:09am

      Re:

      Yeah, I did think that as well. This is a dual promotion - it gives McDonalds a leg up by offering cool merch. It gives Sony a lot of free advertising for their product in the middle of an early gen war against XBox (one that Sony appears to be winning, but it's early days and both camps are heavily affected by chip shortages that prevent them from fulfilling their potential sales).

      I'd imagine that they've already bought and modified the stock and aren't ready to double up on their expenses, preferring instead to negotiate a Sony endorsement for a later event, but it's within the realms of possibility that they could just give the free marketing to their competitor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lostinlodos (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 12:31am

        Re: Re:

        Sony may be ahead, but the end of the last generation speaks volumes x

        Call it what you want; wokeness, correctness, …

        I spent $450 on a 4 last year. Another grand on DIGITAL games.
        Then I purchased Bunny must die. A game I LOVE on PC.
        The censorship kills the game. Bunny can’t flip because she’s a teenager in a skirt.
        Way to go Sony for killing one of the best metroidvania games of the generation! I sold my PS4Pro for $300 and Bunny for Xbox One X.

        Sony’s censorship is going to be their undoing!

        Btw: anyone looking for fire pro wrestling? Gold elite for $50? Open but uninstalled.
        Lol.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sabroni, 6 Aug 2021 @ 1:02am

    I hate mcDonalds. I'm glad Sony did this.
    Maybe their marketing is cleverer than you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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