Legal bunfight: McDonald’s accuses Hungry Jack’s of ripping off Big Mac

Federal court lawsuit filed on Monday claims Hungry Jack’s ‘imitated’ the ‘distinctive appearance’ of the Big Mac, as well as ingredients and tagline

The Hungry Jack’s chain controlled by billionaire Jack Cowin is in a legal pickle – on a sesame seed bun – after rival burger group McDonald’s accused it of ripping off the famous Big Mac.

In a federal court lawsuit filed on Monday, companies in the McDonald’s group claim Hungry Jack’s “deliberately adopted or imitated” the “distinctive appearance or build” of the Big Mac, as well as its ingredients and the advertising tagline “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun”, which has been used to promote the greasy treat since at least 1974.

Hungry Jack’s Big Jack burger is promoted online as containing “two flame-grilled 100% Aussie beef patties, topped with melted cheese, special sauce, fresh lettuce, pickles and onions on a toasted sesame seed bun”.

The legal bunfight comes after Hungry Jack’s began selling the Big Jack burger, and an even chunkier model named the Mega Jack, in July.

McDonald’s has also trademarked the Mega Mac – it contains four beef patties, rather than the Big Mac’s already ample two.

The multinational burger chain claims Hungry Jack’s has refused to comply with its demands to stop slinging Big and Mega Jacks, sent in July and August.

It also claims Hungry Jack’s registered the Big Jack trademark, in November last year, “in bad faith”.

McDonald’s beef with the use of the trademark was that Big Jack buyers “would be deceived into thinking, or alternatively would be caused to wonder whether it might not be the case”, that the burger they were eating was associated with McDonald’s, the company told the court.

It asked the court to revoke the Big Jack trademark, saying it “would be likely to deceive or cause confusion, and is liable to be cancelled, and should in the exercise of the court’s discretion be cancelled”.

McDonald’s is also seeking damages and the destruction of “of all promotional materials, including physical and electronic brochures, menus, advertising and marketing materials, stationary, signage, packaging and documents” bearing the Big Jack or Mega Jack brands.

Hungry Jack’s, the Australian franchisee of American burger group Burger King, was founded by Cowin in 1971, about four years after McDonald’s invented the Big Mac.

It has about 400 outlets in Australia against about 970 McDonald’s outlets.

A Hungry Jack’s spokeswoman said: “Hungry Jack’s has not been served any formal documents from the court and, thus, is unable to provide any comment at this stage.”