Friday, January 22, 2010


Three years ago, teenager Lauren McClusky thought she'd help raise money for the Special Olympics in Chicago by staging concerts with local bands. Lauren raised more than $30,000 to help people with conditions like Down syndrome or autism take part in sports competitions.Because her last name is McClusky, Lauren called the concert series "McFest." After 3 years of success, she applied to trademark the McFest name. Silly -- Didn't she know that might make McDonald's unhappy? McDonald's sees that as an infringement on its trademarks, something the McDonaldland lawyers refer to as "the McFamily of brands."  These include (deep breath): McPen, McBurger, McBuddy, McWatch, McDouble, McJobs, McShirt, McPool, McProduct, McShades, McFree, McRuler, McLight -- and even the prefix "Mc" itself.
And even "McFest" apparently, which has nothing to do with dried-out burgers.Ronald McDonald may clown around but his lawyers are serious. A McDonald's spokeswoman spelled it out:

"(T)he law requires us to guard against third parties that infringe our trademarks and to take the necessary action to stop those infringements"...

McDonald's filed an opposition. So instead of donating funds from her 2009 concert to Special Olympics, McClusky's had to hire lawyers to answer a series of administrative proceedings McDonald's filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. To date, it's cost her roughly $5,000 -- money she wishes had gone to Special Olympics kids instead of attorneys.
No good deed goes unpunished. Lauren McClusky has learned the new Golden Rule: He who has enough gold to hire lawyers makes the rules. If you have the legal firepower, you can claim ownership of something as basic as the prefix "Mc," even though Lauren and millions of others use it as part of their names. Give me a break.
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