by Joe Shea
August 28, 2010
BECK & CALL
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It's understandable: if you own a company, you don't want people to confuse yours with another company that sells a similar product with a similar name.
If you're Starbucks Coffee, you don't want someone calling theirs "Starbux." If you're Nike, you don't want another shoe company called "Nikey." And if you're Ford, you're going to have a problem with someone calling their car company "Fjord."
But if you're McDonald's, you're pushing it if you think people will be confused by someone sticking "Mc" in front of the name of their restaurant. Especially if the restaurant doesn't even serve hamburgers.
According to a story in The (London) Guardian, that's what McDonald's has done to a little restaurant on the Italian island of Sardinia. The all-beef bullies are threatening the tiny, family-owned restaurant with a lawsuit because restaurant owner Ivan Puddu named his restaurant McPuddu's.
Why does McDonald's have their McPanties in a twist? Because they don't want people to be "confused" by the "Mc" in McPuddu's.
McPuddu's is a pizza restaurant whose specialty is culurgione, a pasta shell stuffed with sheep cheese, potato, and mint. McDonald's is a hamburger restaurant whose specialty is a double-pattied hamburger served with a third bun, and Thousand Island/mayonnaise dressing, and you order it from your car.
"Over here, the parcels are made by hand on Sundays in Sardinian homes," Puddu told La Repubblica, Italy's top daily newspaper. "They are good, old-fashioned and a family ritual."
McPuddu's is nothing like McDonald's. You'd think even the most brain-addled mouth-breather can recognize that. But apparently, McDonald's lawyers cannot.
Or do McDonald's lawyers think we're that stupid? Do they think we're so dumb, we'd never realize that McPuddu's is a completely different restaurant from McDonald's? Do they think we don't even notice they're spelled differently? Do they think we're so moronic that we would accidentally order a sheep cheese-stuffed pasta shell when we really wanted a Quarter Pounder and large fries?
Idiot #1: Hey, there's a McDonald's. Let's have lunch there.
Idiot #2: Their name looks all funny. Did they change how they spell it?
Idiot #1: I don't know, I can't read.
Idiot #2: They must be having financial problems too. This place looks nothing like the regular McDonald's we just ate breakfast at four hours ago.
Idiot #1: That guy up there says they ain't got no Big Macs. Just sheep cheese-stuffed pasta. Do you suppose that's one of them new fancy hamburgers?
Sadly, McPuddu's doesn't have the money to fight the threatened lawsuit, and in order to protect his family restaurant, he nailed a plank over the offending "Mc" on his sign, and wrote "censored" on it.
However, the regional government has promised to help Puddu with the legal bills to help fight what one official called "one of the greatest corruptors of the palate in the world."
Puddu has become a rallying cry for Italian politicians and food campaigners, which is a shame, because shouting "Puddu!" sounds a little silly.
Carlo Petrini, president of the Italian Slow Food group, told The Guardian, "This is stupid arrogance. I am sure that in court, McDonald's would lose this."
This isn't the only time McDonald's has tried to bully other restaurant owners. According to the Food & Drink Digital blog, McDonald's made Elizabeth McCaughey (the "gh" is pronounced like an "ff") change her coffee shop's name from McCoffee, even though she'd had it for 17 years.
They were soundly defeated by Allan Pedersen who named his hot dog stand "McAllan," after his favorite whiskey brand, McAllan. The whiskey company said it was okay, the burger company was worried people would confuse a hot dog cart for a large multi-national restaurant chain. The courts ruled that people were smarter than McDonald's lawyers, and forced the chain to pay $6,900 in court costs.
But my favorite story was the 26-year losing campaign the giant has had against the McDonald's Family Restaurant in Fairbury, Illinois, operated by Ronald McDonald (his real name). The real Ronald has managed to prevail against the burger giant, and continues to operate his restaurant to this day.
I understand why a company needs to protect themselves against copyright violations. But I also think there is a line of reasonableness and rationality that McDonald's seems to cross again and again. Someone adding "Mc" to the name of a restaurant that sells hamburgers is a copyright violation. Adding "Mc" to your own last name of a small snack shop on an Italian island is not.
Otherwise, Scotland is in for one hell of a lawsuit.
Erik publishes this column and other humorous articles at his Erik Deckers' Laughing Stalk blog.