McDonald’s is Suing Australian Burger King Over Its ‘Big Jack’ Burger

September 4, 2020 Off By Gavin Butler

Burger King isn’t really a thing in Australia.

When the American fast food franchise expanded its antipodal operations in 1971, the name “Burger King” was already registered to a takeaway food shop in South Australia—forcing it to operate its stores under a subsidiary named Hungry Jack’s. Hungry Jack’s, in partnership with Burger King Corp, expanded rapidly throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, becoming a formidable chain in its own right until the two companies entered into a vicious legal dispute in the early noughties.

Hungry Jack’s won, and in 2003 absorbed all remaining Burger King restaurants in Australia—making it the nation’s biggest rival to McDonald’s in the way of fast food burger chains. Which brings us to today.

McDonald’s, legal trademark holders of the Big Mac since 1973, launched their own legal battle with Hungry Jack’s last week over claims the Australian chain infringed on their intellectual property by releasing a burger called the “Big Jack”. The American fast food giant filed Federal Court proceedings and are seeking an injunction on Hungry Jack’s’ use of the name, accusing them of “flagrant or wilful disregard” of McDonald’s’ trademarks.

According to Australian business publication SmartCompany, Hungry Jack’s submitted a trademark application for Big Jack in November 2019, which was accepted in February without any public opposition. McDonald’s, however, claims it had by that stage already flagged with Hungry Jack’s that its trademark infringed on their intellectual property. 

McDonald’s has thus accused Hungry Jack’s of moving ahead with the name in “bad faith”: that is, acting with dishonesty or fraudulent intent. As it so happens, Hungry Jack’s’ successful legal case against Burger King in the early noughties essentially introduced the American concept of good faith into the Australian legal system: that is, the requirement that parties in an agreement must act reasonably and not dishonestly or without regard to the interests of the other party.

McDonald’s wants the Federal Court to cancel two trademarks granted to Hungry Jack’s—the chain also registered the name “Mega Jack”, which McDonald’s has accused of copying the “Mega Mac”—and order the destruction of all promotional materials related to the burgers.

Speaking to SmartCompany, a Hungry Jack’s spokesperson said the chain “has not been served any formal documents from the court and, thus, is unable to provide any comment at this stage.”