Crain’s Discusses Russian Threats to McDonald’s Trademarks with Josh Gerben

Recently, several Russian trademark applications have been filed using McDonald’s name and branding and it’s likely just the beginning.

Crain’s discussed the new trademarks filings and their potential affect on Western companies with Josh Gerben.

“I would anticipate we’re probably going to see more of it,” said Josh Gerben, who has been following the applications, and working with a Ukrainian lawyer to translate the filings.

An application was also filed for “Starbucks,” Gerben said. Like McDonald’s, Starbucks temporarily closed its stores in Russia.

The filings come after a statement by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development earlier this month, stating that it was considering lifting restrictions on trademarks for companies that had stopped doing business there. It also essentially legalized patent theft from parties affiliated with “unfriendly” countries.

“The trademark applications are people trying to jump on intellectual property that Russia has indicated may no longer be valid in the country,” Gerben said. “The trademarks are only good as long as the government says they are and as long as the courts say they are.”

If someone owned a trademark for “McDonald’s,” they could theoretically open a restaurant and sell “Big Macs” but it would not be the same food. This could confuse consumers and weaken the McDonald’s brand. However, if the Russians were to reopen a McDonald’s location as an Uncle Vanya’s, that might not be as damaging to the company’s brand, Gerben said. In that scenario, it is clear to consumers that McDonald’s is no longer operating that restaurant.

Still, it’s a dangerous precedent that could hinder McDonald’s ability to regain control of these locations. It could also lead to the McDonald’s ceasing operations in the country forever, if the country has no regard for it’s brand.

“You just never know when your restaurants are going to get seized and run by the government,” Gerben said.

Source: Marotti, Ally. “Uncle Vanya isn’t the only threat to Russian McDonald’s.” 17 March 2022.

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