Trademark infringement accusations run amok

The Houston Chronicle recently reported on a Houston restaurant being the recipient of legal bullying by none other than McDonald’s. Yes, the “billions and billions served” gargantuan international hamburger joint, whose food in some circles is synonymous with “#$%&”, has accused the one-location Jus’ Mac of trademark infringement.

I’m sorry if my bias is showing. I liked the food at Jus’ Mac from the one time I got to eat there months ago, and I’m a supporter of local businesses when feasible. I’ve never been a fan of McDonald’s, and while the hard boycott hasn’t been there for a while it’s always been “why eat at McDonald’s when I can go to Little Big’s, Tacos A Go-Go, Last Concert Cafe, Chipotle, Taco Cabana, etc?” (Yes, McDonald’s used to own part of Chipotle, but does no longer as of 2006.)

To me, this is clearly an attempt by McDonald’s at intimidation, and at first glance it certainly smells like intimidation for intimidation’s sake. I think McDonald’s’ well-intentioned attempt to protect their trademarks is failing miserably in the execution department. As we learned from the “hot coffee” lawsuit, common sense appears to be lacking in the legal department at McDonald’s. (For those unfamiliar with the hot coffee case: several previous suits were settled for small amounts and McDonald’s did nothing to keep them from happening; McDonald’s tried to settle for a laughably low $800 in response to Stella’s generous initial demand for $20,000. Ultimately, McDonald’s paid out an amount “less than $600,000” but we can assume much higher than the $20,000 Stella originally sought.)

Anyway, if you believe them, McDonald’s seriously thinks that people will mix up macaroni-and-cheese dishes with a Big Mac hamburger or any other of their menu items that have “Mac” in the name. I find this hard to believe; the restaurants are certainly different enough in style. I certainly think it’ll be difficult for McDonald’s to convince a jury there’s potential for confusion. That’s the problem, though: by the time it gets to a jury, McDonald’s has probably already bankrupted Jus’ Mac with legal costs. I know I’m not the only person who sees this as a travesty compared to real justice, yet this kind of war of attrition is exactly what our “justice system” has turned into.

So if you live in or plan to visit Houston, swing by Jus’ Mac at 2617 Yale and check it out. And pass the word to McDonald’s that what they are doing isn’t cool at all.