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Golden arches weather the trademark storm

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McDonald's will keep the domain name Pizza.eu after a legal challenge to the burger giant's right was rejected this week.

Torbjörn Ahlberg of Swedish domain name sellers TBA Media had challenged McDonald's registration which was sought during an initial period when the .eu space was open only to trademark owners.

McDonald's relied for its .eu application on a Hungarian trademark. The mark was a logo in which two McDonald's 'Golden Arches' (usually used to represent an 'M') were rotated to represent the 'Z's of the word pizza. A similar mark (pictured) was registered in the UK in 1994 but expired in 2004.

Although McDonald's does not currently sell pizzas in either Hungary or the UK, it does sell them at its restaurants in Italy. In securing the domain name, McDonald's beat applicants from Italy, France, the Netherlands, each of whom presented evidence of relevant trademark rights. Its success was not because of a stronger claim; it was simply first rights-holder to file.

Sweden's Ahlberg was the only failed applicant to challenge the award to McDonald's. The challenge will have cost an arbitration fee of €1,990 plus any legal expenses.

He argued that the "Golden Arches" trademarks used by McDonald's were synonymous with the letter "M" not the letter "Z", therefore they represented the word PIMMA rather than PIZZA and were invalid as a trademark for the PIZZA domain.

Irish panellist Joseph Dalby accepted that the "Golden Arches" logo is widely recognisable and easily identifiable as a symbol of McDonald's. But he considered the different use of the original motif was "a deliberate ploy to invite comparisons generally and perhaps puzzlement in some cases with the original."

He added that "the general impression of the word is apparent in the mark without any reasonable possibility of misreading the characters". Thus, they disagreed with Mr Ahlberg's hypothesis that the logo spelt PIMMA and believed it was a valid trademark with which to register Pizza.eu.

Hungarian company McDonald's Magyarorszagi Etterem Halozat Kft remains the owner of Pizza.eu, although it is currently a holding site, with no McDonald's-related content.

McDonald's has an extensive trademark portfolio which includes text or graphical registrations for McPizza, McSoup, McCola, McFish, McToast, mmmmmmm, Fry Girls and Mayor McCheese.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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