A legal-linguistic-semiotic perspective of trademark dispute in McDonald's vs. McCurry

Noraini Ibrahim, Radha M.K. Nambiar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In 2009, a landmark victory was won by McCurry (a restaurant serving Malaysian food) over McDonald's (the famed American fast food chain) when the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia, ruled that McCurry could continue using the prefix 'Mc' in its name. This case brings to fore the growing body of trademark litigation, where trademarks are deemed as "proprietary language bits of linguistic or semiotic material that people, corporations and institutions in very real but limited sense own" (Butters, 2010, p. 352). The issue here is whether or not the commercial use of a bound form morpheme, Mc, like in McDonald's, has changed from its original meaning to the extent that it takes a new meaning in the public domain. When such a case comes to court, it is a practice in many developed countries to call upon experts, including linguists to assist. This was, however, not the case when the case was first heard at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, and later at the Court of Appeal. As such, there was no legal-linguistic-semiotic investigation into whether or not the use of Mc by McCurry could have led to an unfair advantage over McDonald's. Hence, this is the thrust of the paper. Can the trademark Mc be exclusive in referent to only McDonald's or can another similar business outfit use the prefix Mc without raising any confusion to consumers? In order to answer the question on the use of trademark or 'this bit of language', a classroom task was carried out in an undergraduate course, SKBE3013 Language and the Law. To collect the relevant data, a social media, the Facebook was employed as a research innovation. However, as the case has been decided by the Federal Court, this paper will take a retrospective approach that offers an insight into how an understanding of the use of language in a dynamic context could have assisted the court.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalPertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities
Volume21
Issue numberSUPPL
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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trademark
semiotics
linguistics
language
innovation research
food
language course
facebook
McDonald's
Language
Dispute
Trademark
social media
Malaysia
corporation
appeal
expert
classroom

Keywords

  • Linguist
  • Patronymic prefix
  • Trademark
  • Trademark law
  • Trademark litigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

A legal-linguistic-semiotic perspective of trademark dispute in McDonald's vs. McCurry. / Ibrahim, Noraini; Nambiar, Radha M.K.

In: Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Vol. 21, No. SUPPL, 05.2013, p. 91-100.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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