Monday, August 30

The mouthwatering legal battle: Mickey D's -vs- McPuddu's??

I used to love eating at a place in Trastevere called Da Carlone - they still have the best 'cacio & pepe' in Rome (until it ended up in the guide books and the prices rose to American tourista levels); the 'da' signifying the English 's to turn it into Big Carl's Place.  It could very well be that the whole name was also, simply put, the proprietor's name.
So last week's news of the Sardinian take away place, McPuddu's, getting served a 'cease & desist' order by noneother than McDonalds brought upon more than a few chuckles. A quick read through the Italian press and you learn that:

- the ballsy Mr. Puddu is a simple proprietor of a very traditional Sardinian delicacy, culurgiones (which to this writer sounds a lot like cogliones, but, that's another story...) made in back rooms by little old signore dressed in black [which then provokes the query...are the tax police aware of his supply chain antics?]
- that culurgiones have been around a lot longer than the cheeseburger
- and that McDonalds seems to reserve the right to their prefix -- no matter what you're serving

Now I think McDonald's is ridiculous and should have no right to that prefix.  Think of all the poor blokes in Scotland who just want to open up a pub for their mates to hang out in - but can't.  But the rationale behind Mr. Puddu's right of use is derisible, at best. 

By claiming he is upholding a long-standing gastronomic tradition, why then, use the Mc at all?  It has nothing to do with Italy, traditions, culurgiones, or anything else.  It'd be like taking the best and darkest Italian Barolo and adding Coca in front, just so people know you can drink it.  Or, how about the Big Pasta al Pesto (you could call it the Big Maccheroni) or Milan's famed Veal Cutlet...Vittello alla McMilanese.

But my favorite defense that's been put forth is that the Mc (of Mickey D's) is akin to Da or Di -- basically showing the ownership as in, Leonardo Da Vinci (Leo from the town of Vinci).  Just think, if we applied this logic, Leonardo Di Caprio would never have become famous (or maybe so, due to copyright expiration).
This assertion is plain ludicrous for two reasons:  Mc is not proprietary (unless of course, you are Ronald McDonald) and if he wanted to mean "of" or "by" he could have more simply called his place, Puddu's or Di Puddu...Or, taking from the Guardian, Puddy's...

The papers are reporting that Puddu has since put up a censored sign over the Mc part while he prepares his legal battle.  But I suggest if he wants international success over satire, to stick with Sardinian and leave the Burger Kings alone.

5 comments:

Sarah in deepest, darkest Lomellina said...

McD don't do themselves any favours do they.

How to look like a right bully with no sense of proportion and a rather dubious attitude to what is a rather common prefix to a name.

Goliath is always going to lose out to David on the world stage in terms of PR.

Jacques said...

The Mc is not proprietary, but in certain cases, such as it would seem this one, the Mc is almost certainly used solely to recall specifically the fast-food myth of McD's, playing off of Ronald's hard work over the decades, even if in an ironic comparison to completely local "fast food" cuisine.
Mc is a common prefix, but not in Sardinia and would not seem to have any reason for being there except to call to memory a different food service institution. How do you explain McPuddùs and McFruttùs by two young newly starting shop owners if not a marketing ploy?
If Mr. Puddu actually were to have a Scottish grandfather who was stationed in Sardinia after the war, or some similar tie for which he were called McPuddu before opening this restaurant in 2010, well he might have a case.
Now, playing the "victim" card and using the "censored" sign is only a good way to get free publicity at the launch of a new restaurant, something which usually doesn't hurt its chances of survival.
To be honest, there would be no confusing McDonald's with McPuddùs, but, particularly since McDonalds does tag local (and not so local products) with the Mc prefix, it is easily within the realm of reason to expect a McPuddùs were a local experiment in local cuisine franchising by McDonald's International.
Sounds to me like Mr. Puddu was just playing with matches, and got burnt, and now is crying about it to anyone who passes.

Francesca Maggi said...

Good arguments. I tend to agree, but I still think it's hysterical that he claims the Mc is like Di or Da...
I also might say that if Mc = Fast Food well then...you're right. But, I once launched in Lucca a CityPhone (a huge phone-shaped audioguide for a city tour around there).
I got a nasty letter from Citibank lawyers when I went to trademark the thing.
While I didn't feel like putting up a fight, it was preposterous. So now they own CITY too? Windy City is no more? City of Lights? Completely uncalled for bullying to the nth degree which would have had no bearing on their little trademark and no confusion to the consumer who, really wanted to call their banker but got an audiotour of Lucca Italy instead. Yeah, right.

Jacques said...

I can agree fully that CityXYZ tourist services (tied to a City, as in "città") and CitiBank are much less associated, and you probably had a much better case than Mr. Puddu does.
A "city" moniker tied to services that are regarding something like a city, is much mor convincing than a "Mc" moniker tied to typically ... Sardinian ... cuisine served fast-food style (which, from what little I know, is actually contrary to Sardinian style...). So if Mr. Puddu wants to hire little old ladies and serve typically Sardinian fares, he has no real reason to add the Mc to his "fast food" food place name, even if he is Puddu, but not the least Scottish.
No bullying intended, just a little common sense.
CityPhone and McPuddùs seem worlds apart logically. Legally, well, I'm not a lawyer, but CityPhone seems one side of the fence, McPuddùs the other.
One, perhaps (but not in my opinion), infringing without intention (your CityPhone - were it CitiPhone, well maybe a bit more risk of such as it might seem CitiBank local phone help services? but CityPhone, I think not even close...) the other trying to see how close it could push without getting caught or bit back (is there McAnything typically Sardinian?).
And I agree that the "Mc = Di" isa bit "arrampicarsi per gli specchi" and further proof, if necessary, that it was all a publicity stunt to get the whole ball rolling.
And it isn't mentioned, but how much would anyone want to bet that the McFruttus of his girlfriend sells "smoothies" and "shakes", all made with fresh fruit, of course, but not typical Sardinian fare...

Francesca Maggi said...

...I didn't hear about McFruttus! And, I have to say, no one has published an actual sign of his place - even the Sardinian papers!
The only signage you see doesn't show the name (??) and, doesn't list Sardinian fare but rather, pizza take away...
Hmmm...I smell a skunk...and the conspiracy theories are starting to fly...