Who you callin' chicken? McDonald's plucks A&W's feathers in legal food fight

A&W chief financial officer Donald Leslie said the company has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling on its claim. ""It takes a little time to digest these things,"" he said, in an unintentional pun.

The Globe and Mail
April 2, 2005

Who you callin' chicken? McDonald's plucks A&W's feathers in legal food fight
John Partridge

McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. has won at least the first round of a real game of chicken with rival A&W Food Services of Canada Inc.

The Federal Court of Canada has thrown out a lawsuit in which A&W was seeking to force McDonalds to drop the name of a grilled chicken sandwich it sells called "Chicken McGrill."

Vancouver-based A&W alleged that McDonald's, which introduced the contentious item in 2001, was infringing a trademark it registered back in 1988 for what it calls its "Chicken Grill" sandwich.

Through the use of this "confusingly similar mark," A&W alleged, McDonald's had "preyed upon its goodwill in the marketplace," Mr. Justice James O'Reilly of the Federal Court recounted in his ruling, which was issued last week

However, even though A&W went as far as bringing in a linguistics expert to testify about likely consumer confusion about the sandwich names, Judge O'Reilly dismissed the suit, ruling A&W had failed to prove its claim.

But he likewise dismissed a counterclaim in which Toronto-based McDonald's Canada — which also brought in a linguistics expert —alleged that A&W's trademark on the Chicken Grill name was "invalid because it lacks the essential element of distinctiveness." McDonald's, too, the judge ruled, had failed to prove its case.

Whether the two companies plan to continue to rattle their drumsticks is not entirely clear.

A&W chief financial officer Donald Leslie said the company has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling on its claim. "It takes a little time to digest these things," he said, in an unintentional pun.

However, at McDonald's, spokesman Rob Christianson said "obviously we're pleased" at not being ordered to drop the Chicken McGrill name. "We're really just looking forward to getting back to business."


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