Creating Sub-Brands: The Power of Family Trade marks

Sharon Givoni Consulting Trade marks
Credit: Joiarib Morales (Unsplash)

Creating Sub-Brands: The Power of Family Trade marks

In the world of branding and intellectual property, a powerful strategy we often advise on is the use of family trade marks (also known as sub-brands). These trade marks often share a common element, creating a consistent brand identity across a range of product lines.

McDonald’s and the Power of “Mc” Trade marks

One the most iconic examples of this strategy is McDonald’s, with its numerous trademarks incorporating “Mc.” In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of family trade marks, exploring their legal implications, the scope of protection, and the benefits of registration in Australia.

We will also provide revealing and instructive examples from McDonald’s and discuss the use of family trade marks in logos.

The Law and Trade marks

Let’s start with the basics.

A trade mark is a unique sign that distinguishes the goods or services of one business from those of others. In Australia, trade marks are governed by the Trade Marks Act (Cth) 1995. They can consist of words, logos, or a combination of both. If you are really adventurous, trade marks can also consist of shapes, sounds, colours and aspects of packaging as well, but that’s a discussion for another day.

What Do Trade Mark Registrations Give You?

Trade marks provide exclusive rights to use the registered mark in connection with specific goods and services.

This exclusivity extends to preventing others from using a similar mark that could cause confusion among consumers. For example, if you have a registered trade mark for a specific type of beverage, others cannot use a similar mark for a similar beverage. Some people also refer to this as a “monopoly”.

Benefits of Trade Mark Registration in Australia

Registering a trade mark in Australia offers several advantages, including:

  • Exclusive Rights
  • You can use the ® symbol
  • You can sell or licence the mark

In other words, you get a legal basis to take action against others who attempt to use a confusingly similar mark.

Brand Recognition

A registered trade mark enhances brand recognition and can become a valuable asset.

You can also use the ® symbol.

The McDonald’s Case study

McDonald’s is a prime example of a brand that has mastered the art of family trade marks. Below is a list of trade marks with the “Mc” prefix that are registered trade marks in Australia:

  • MyMaccas
  • Big Mac (note: recently contested and won)
  • McFlurry
  • McCafé
  • McChicken
  • McNuggets
  • McWrap
  • McHappy Day
  • McDelivery
  • Egg McMuffin
  • McCrispy
  • McSnack
  • McKids

These trade marks share the common “Mc” element, making them instantly recognisable as part of the McDonalds brand.

A picture tells 1000 words

Family trade marks are not limited to words alone; they can also be incorporated into logos.

A notable example is the “Mc” incorporated into the golden arches of the McDonald’s logo. This distinctive design immediately associates the logo with the McDonald’s brand, demonstrating the power of visual branding elements.

McTrademarking Success: Lessons from McDonald’s Brand Strategy

In the world of branding and intellectual property, family trade marks offer a powerful strategy for creating a distinctive and instantly recognisable brand identity.

McDonald’s provides a compelling example of how a common element, “Mc,” can unify a diverse range of products and services.

By leveraging family trade marks, businesses can enhance brand recognition, and protect their unique identity in the marketplace.

Ther power of McDonald’s family of trade marks has been tested, where attempts by competitors to register “McSalad” and “McFresh” were found to be deceptively similar to McDonald’s trade marks. In other market segments, however, “McMint” for confectionery and “McVeg” for vegetable burgers were allowed by the Australian Trade Mark Office. This was because the likelihood of consumers associating these trade marks with McDonalds was found to be minimal.

Three Tips

Consider whether your brand can benefit from a common element that ties together your products or services. Or, should you come up with an element if you don’t already have one?

If you decide on a common element, consult with an intellectual property attorney to register your trade marks, ensuring legal protection.

Maintain consistency in using your family trade marks across all branding elements, including logos, to create a cohesive and memorable brand identity.

A final word

Remember, the success of your brand often hinges on its distinctiveness. Family trade marks can be a valuable tool in achieving that goal and helping you to create a McLegacy of your own and stop others from using brands that are confusing to yours.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and does not constitute legal advice. To address specific legal matters, consult a legal professional.