Fast food giant McDonald’s has just been handed a stunning defeat by a Malaysian high court in an epic trademark dispute. The ruling ended an eight-year battle in which the megacorporation attempted to prevent a small curry restaurant from using the prefix “Mc” in its name. McCurry (which stands for “Malaysian Chicken Curry”) argued that it had every right to use the two consonants and that McDonald’s claim that the two restaurants could be confused was unfounded. McCurry offers an Indian menu (including, among other things, fish head curry) while McDonald’s sticks to arguably less palatable “Western” fare. In addition to granting McCurry the rights to the disputed prefix, the court ordered McDonald’s to pay all legal costs incurred by the defendant. McDonald’s has a history of attacking anyone who dares string the two letters together: the company has previously brought legal action against a curry restaurant in Jamaica and the Oxford English Dictionary for listing the definition of “McJob.” Hopefully having its McAss handed to it by Malaysia’s highest court will end the corporation’s global monopoly on the two letters, allowing small business owners and a good part of Scotland to breathe easy.
But what can we do to prevent bullying megacorporations from treating the world like one giant school yard? For every Malaysian McCurry there are untold numbers of little guys slain by corporate Goliaths. For every staggering judgment (like Pfizer’s recent $2.3 billion settlement with the FDA) there are a slew of shady backroom deals in which corporations make a mint at the public’s expense. How many strikes should a corporation be allowed before we, the public, are allowed to revoke their charter? What are some effective ways for civil society to fight back against corporate power?