Trademark Attorney Morris Turek

Morris E. Turek

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McDonald’s Says: “Our Meals are Happy. Your Meals Are Not.”

Happy’s Pizza Company is a regional casual restaurant chain with approximately 65 locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.  According to its website, Happy’s Pizza first opened in 1994 and now serves a wide variety of food items including pizza, ribs, sandwiches, burgers, and chicken wings (sounds like my kind of place).  My research also indicates that Happy’s Pizza owns a number of federal trademark registrations for marks that incorporate the term “HAPPY”:

HAPPY WINGS (Reg. No. 3476533) for “chicken wings for consumption on or off the premises”

HAPPY SUBS (Reg. No. 3912222) for “sandwiches”

HAPPY’S PIZZA (Reg. No. 3608919) for “restaurant services”

Well, on February 19, 2010, Happy’s Pizza decided to add to its family of “HAPPY” marks by filing an intent-to-use trademark application seeking registration of the mark HAPPY BURGER for “restaurant services.”  But, McDonald’s has at least temporarily put the kibosh on that when it filed an opposition against the application on the basis that  HAPPY BURGER is likely to cause confusion with, and dilution of, its famous HAPPY MEAL trademark.  Now, unless you’ve been living in Antarctica for your entire life, you already know that McDonald’s uses its HAPPY MEAL trademark in connection with combination meals geared toward children that consist of a burger (or delectable Chicken McNuggets), side dish (I personally prefer french fries to apple slices), beverage (Diet Coke for me), and some crappy toy (can I have two?), all of which is served in a decorated cardboard box with handles.  And, not surprisingly, McDonald’s owns federal trademark registrations for HAPPY MEAL (Reg. Nos. 3431008, 3431009, 1299742, and 1136758), some of which date back to the early 1980’s.

Although reasonable minds can differ on the strength of McDonald’s arguments, I would like to note that there are already trademark registrations owned by companies other than McDonald’s for marks that include the word “HAPPY” and that are for restaurant services, such as HAPPY CHEF (Reg. No. 0898453), HAPPY STAR (Reg. No. 1084351), HAPPY VEGGIE GARDEN (Reg. No. 3305245), HAPPY DRAGON (Reg. No. 3511875), and HAPPY SUMO (Reg. No. 3059505), among others.  Let’s face it, “happy” is not exactly a unique and creative term entitled to the broadest spectrum of protection.   But, I can also see why McDonald’s wouldn’t be thrilled when “happy” is used in close proximity to the word “burger.”  In my opinion, it’s a close call as to whether Happy’s Pizza is tying to ride on the extensive public recognition of McDonald’s HAPPY MEAL trademark.

Or is it?  As I was perusing the Happy’s Pizza website, I came across the following page (http://www.happyspizza.com/hp_menu.php) under the “Sandwiches” link:

Come on!  “The Real Happy Meal.”  Can anyone say “smoking gun?”  It’s like Happy’s Pizza is trying to lose this opposition and be sued for trademark infringement at the same time.  Wow, what an absolute nightmare for Happy’s Pizza.  Ronald McDonald might as well be the Grim Reaper as far as Happy’s Pizza is concerned.

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2 Responses to McDonald’s Says: “Our Meals are Happy. Your Meals Are Not.”

  1. John Burton says:

    Morris,

    I am putting together a marketing course for school food service directors at the next conference and ran across your article on “Happy Meals”. I am on a big push for schools to market nutrition, as any retailer would market their product (McDonalds, Wendys, Chuckie Cheese, etc). I came up with a couple of concepts with logos that I think could go toe to toe with anything out there and have looked into getting them trademarked. I googled online and found a site that would charge $35. That was perfect, as the food services of schools do not have money to spend on trademarks. Our business manager called the school attorney who stated the cost would be around $5,000 per logo. What was even more perplexing was a statement that without the trademark, we could still be ok (intellectual property rights?). Anyway, I after watching your interview on the news station you seemed fairly straight forward and thought I’d ask your thoughts on this. It is school lunch, not getting rich anytime soon, but it’s rewarding. Any input would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    John

  2. Morris Turek says:

    John,

    Thank you for posting on my blog. Please feel free to contact me to discuss this matter privately and in further detail.

    Sincerely,
    Morris

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