McDonald’s is an international fast-food giant with around 40,000 franchises worldwide. It’s 7th on the list of top ten most valuable brands in the USA (as of 2020) and has a brand value of more than 170 billion.
McDonald’s was born in the late 1940s when brothers Richard (Dick) and Maurice (Mac) McDonald opened their first restaurant. Originally from New Hampshire, the family moved to California in the 1930s. Their father opened a fast-food restaurant in the 1930s, and they inherited it in 1940. This restaurant in California was known as McDonald’s Bar-B-Que and had a menu with around 25 items. In the late 40s, the brothers noted that burgers were their most popular item, so they closed down their restaurant in favor of a streamlined menu selling apple pies, coffee, hamburgers, potato chips, french fries, and milkshakes. They also fostered a self-service format to craft efficiency. They dropped part of the name, and McDonald’s was born in 1948. In 1952 the brothers teamed up with Stanley Clark Meston, an architect, to design a new restaurant building with a more eye-catching appearance. This design created the world-famous trademarked Golden Arches.
Seating designs also changed, creating the fast-food design it’s known for today. The restaurants are designed to make it uncomfortable for you to linger after your meal. They also spread seats apart further (making it challenging to socialize).
In 1953 their first two franchise deals were born; the first was with Neil Fox; his location in Phoenix, Arizona, was the first restaurant to use the Golden Arches. The 2nd was with Bud Landon and Roger Williams and was located in California. In 1954 there was a meeting between the McDonald’s brothers and Ray Kroc. Ray convinced the brothers to let him expand the company nationally, except in Arizona and California, in exchange for a 5% profit. Today, this franchise is the oldest surviving McDonald’s restaurant.
Under Kroc, the brand expanded during the late 50s, but it would explode in the 60s due to the expanding interstate links in the US. Kroc also launched slogans such as “Look for the golden arches.” By 1963 McDonald’s sold their millionth burger, and the Ronald McDonald clown was born, too.
Kroc bought out the brothers in the early 60s and took the company public in 1965. Today, McDonald’s is the most recognizable restaurant chain, with a presence in more than 100 countries worldwide, although more than 40% of McDonald’s franchises are based in the USA. In 2022 McDonald’s publicly supported Ukraine in the wake of the war with Russia, closing all Russian McDonalds as part of targeted sanctions, effective immediately.
Famous McDonalds trademarks
Most of the trademarks belonging to the McDonald’s brand were introduced in the 60s, including the first addition to the original menu, such as the Filet-O-Fish (1963) and BigMac (1957). Let’s take a look at some of the other famous Mcdonald’s trademarks.
Golden Arch logo
One of the most famous logos in the world is McDonald’s golden arches. The first arched logo was registered in 1961 for use in:
- Goods and services, the sale of fries, burgers, milkshakes, etc.
- Restaurant services
Read more: How to trademark a logo.
The Egg McMuffin is an iconic McDonald’s menu item consisting of a sausage patty, egg, and cheese with a hash brown, though precise ingredients may vary based on your location. The Egg McMuffin trademark was registered in 1973 and applied to:
- Sale and promotion of a breakfast food combination sandwich
The Big Mac is an iconic McDonald’s hamburger with various toppings and serving options depending on where you are in the world. The trademark was first registered in 1973, following its first use in 1957. The trademark filing applies to:
- A sandwich for consumption on or off-premises
- Restaurant services
- Clothing and other promotional merchandise
The Happy Meal kids meal was born in the 70s when families facing time pressure were looking for a cheap and easy way to feed their kids on the way home from school. The Happy Meal trademark was registered in 1980 (following its first use in 1977) and applies to:
- Cardboard food containers
- Combination meal consisting primarily of meat or chicken-based entree and fresh fruit for consumption on or off the premises
- Children’s combination meal which consists of a hamburger sandwich served with french-fried potatoes and a soft drink for consumption on or off the premises
- Restaurant services
McCafe branding is used for McDonald’s beverage service. The trademark application was submitted in 2001 and covered the following categories:
- Powders are used to prepare coffee-based, tea-based, and cocoa-based beverages; processed tea leaves
- Milk-beverages containing coffee, fruit, and fruit juice
- Beverages made of coffee, hot chocolate, and more
- Breakfast foods, pastries, cakes, muffins, and croissants
- Virtual concerts
- Edible sandwiches, meat sandwiches, pork sandwiches, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, biscuits, bread, cakes, cookies, chocolate, coffee, coffee substitutes, tea, mustard, oatmeal, pastries, sauces, seasonings, and sugar
- Whole bean and ground coffee
McDelivery is a McDonald’s home delivery service offered in some parts of the world. It was launched in 1993 in parts of the US, Asia, South America, and the middle east. The trademark was registered in 2017 in the following categories:
- Virtual restaurant services
- Virtual food services
- Online retail services for virtual goods
- Home delivery for foods
- Fast-food chain services
Ronald McDonald charity
The Ronald McDonald charity is the charitable/non-profit arm of the McDonald’s corporation, responsible for funding millions of dollars of philanthropic activities annually. The Ronald McDonald House trademark was registered in 1974 and applies to the following categories:
- Charitable fundraising
- Providing temporary lodging and emotional support for families with hospitalized children
- A newsletter dealing with a housing program for families with hospitalized children
The Chicken McNugget is McDonald’s world-famous chicken nugget, and the recipe is a closely guarded secret. The McNugget trademark dates back to 1982, following its first use in 1980. The trademark applies to:
- Restaurant services
- Products made of poultry
Camp Ronald McDonald For Good Times
McDonald’s sponsors the Ronald McDonald Camp, which is a camp designed for young cancer sufferers and their families. The first camps were held in the 1980s, and the trademark was registered in 1991 for use in:
- Entertainment services, namely, providing a camp facility for children
McDonald’s has trademarked their famous plant-based burger and vegetarian range – The McPlant. The McPlant was trademarked in 2020 in the following categories:
- Plant-based meat substitutes
- Plant-based sandwiches, plant-based breakfast sandwiches, and plant-based sandwich wraps
In 1976 the McDonald’s corporation registered the mark “MCD” for use in:
- Concentrated all-purpose cleaners and sanitizers
McDonald’s is a massive multi-national corporation with a presence in more than 100 countries and an impressive portfolio of intellectual property, encompassing everything from Filet-O-Fish sandwiches to cleaning mixtures and plant-based foods. Intellectual property can be worth more than physical property; leaving it undefended is a sure-fire way to damage your business and potentially waste thousands or even millions of dollars of your hard work. McDonald’s regularly files new trademark applications to protect this, though many of its key trademarks date back to the 1960s. Mcdonald’s corporation owns a whopping 300 active trademarks and more than a dozen pending approval.