LOCAL burger company L.C. Big Mak Burger Inc. has won its legal battle against food chain giant McDonald’s Corp. over the popular “Big Mac” brand.
In a 13-page decision authored by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the Supreme Court granted the petition of L.C. Big Mak Burger seeking to dismiss the contempt case filed by McDonald’s over the local firm’s supposed defiance of a 1994 court order barring it from using the brand “Big Mak” for its business name or any product.
The SC ruled to set aside the 2017 decision of the Court of Appeals favoring McDonald’s. It also found the international food chain guilty of indirect contempt and ordered it to pay a fine of P30,000.
The high court reinstated the 2014 decision of a Makati City regional trial court which not only dismissed the contempt petition of McDonald’s but also ordered it to pay a total of P1.2 million for moral and exemplary damages and attorney fees to L.C. Big Mak Burger Inc. and its owner, Francis Dy.
The SC said the appellate court erred in finding L.C. Big Mak Burger Inc. guilty of indirect contempt for its alleged continued use of the words “Big Mak” in its stalls and products despite an earlier court ruling on the trade infringement case.
“Contrary to what respondent attempted to impress to the courts, it is not wholly true that petitioner continues to use the mark ‘Big Mak’ in its business, in complete defiance to this Court’s decision.”
“Testimonial and documentary evidence were in fact presented to show that petitioner had been using ‘Super Mak’ and/or its corporate name ‘L.C. Big Mak Burger Inc.’ in its business operations instead of the proscribed mark ‘Big Mak’ pursuant to the ruling of the Infringement Court,” the SC said.
The petitioner’s use of its corporate name that includes ‘Big Mak,’ the SC said, is not tantamount to defiance of the court’s ruling.
“It bears stressing that the proscription in the injunction order is against petitioner’s use of the mark ‘Big Mak.’ However, as established, petitioner had already been using its corporate name instead of the proscribed mark...Clearly, as correctly found by the RTC, petitioner had indeed desisted from the use of ‘Big Mak’ to comply with the injunction order,” read the ruling.
The tribunal noted that the changes made by L.C. Big Mak Burger Inc. as early as during trial of the case, “belie the imputation of disobedience, much less contemptuous acts, against petitioner.”
“Petitioner’s good faith in complying with the court’s order is manifest in this case,” it said.