Sep 10, 2009 04:30 AM
For now, "Mc" will be "Mo."
But the owner of a start-up falafel joint says that once MoFalafel makes him enough money to pay for legal costs, he will stand up to McDonald’s and reclaim the chosen name for his Dundas St. W. restaurant, McFalafel.
"After I have enough money, I’ll go fight," said Abdal Salam yesterday.
Little guys can and do win, sometimes, against the litigious hamburger giant, which has taken many companies to court for allegedly violating its trademark McLanguage.
On Tuesday, a restaurant in Putrajaya, Malaysia, became the most recent victor, winning an eight-year battle over the "Mc" in its name, McCurry.
Others have had varying success, including the Viennese hairdresser who called his salon McHair, a Montreal store selling McCondoms and a Danish hot-dog stand salesman who used the name McAllan.
McFalafel opened several months ago inside a Hasty Market convenience store on Dundas near Islington Ave.
Salam, who moved to Canada from the Palestinian Territories five years ago, says he sank $14,000 into menus and signs for his restaurant, which serves halal shawarma, shisk taouk and, of course, falafel, and registered with the city. He didn’t know there was a problem until two months ago, when McDonald’s lawyers sent him a letter asking him to change his restaurant name.
After that, lawyers were "coming every single day," Salam says. Three weeks ago, he caved. Red stickers transformed the small c’s on his signs into o’s – but they can and will be removed once he has enough cash for a legal battle, he says.
"What can we do?" Salam says. "McDonald’s is a big company. I’m small."
Salam beams when talking about the McCurry victory. "I saw on the TV," he says, clasping his hand to his heart.
Malaysia’s highest court ruled McDonald’s cannot appeal against another court’s verdict that had allowed McCurry to use the prefix, ending all legal avenues for McDonald’s to protect its name from what it called a trademark infringement.
Yesterday, McDonald’s said it respected the court’s decision. "Meanwhile, we will continue to vigorously defend our trademarks and brand around the world, as we always have," it said in a statement.
Toronto-based trademark lawyers say the Malaysian ruling is unlikely to set a precedent in Canada.
As for McFalafel’s chances, trademark lawyer Donald Brown says, "McDonald’s could have a case. Their arguments would be, you chose `Mc’ because it directly relates to our organization and you could be viewed as riding on our fame and/or notoriety."
McDonald’s does sell McFalafels in Egypt, which Brown says could only help the chain argue their case.
Business, technology and intellectual property lawyer Andrey Pinsky says many people who set up businesses fail to check the trademark database. "Many people don’t know the trademark act exists," he says.
Salam is frustrated by the whole ordeal. He says he chose "Mc" for Mediterranean Cuisine, which is written on his menus.
The menus and signs are also branded with a yellow M, but Salam argues it is different from McDonald’s golden arches.
He is also opening up a second restaurant, McShawarma, in Brantford. "I have to change it now."
With the o’s on the signs on Dundas W., customers are confused.
Salam says everybody walks into his restaurant saying, "Why you change? McDonald’s coming for you?"