US burger giant McDonald's Corporation begins the year with a double-edged attack on its South African competitors in the country's two highest courts in defence of its reputation and trade mark.
McDonald's lawyers will begin their first-round bid in the Durban Supreme Court on March 18 seeking to prove that the "Big Mac" name is synonymous with burgers, before heading for the Appellate Division to argue that its trade mark remains valid despite years of non-use due to US imposed sanctions on South Africa.
The Bloemfontein court registrar's office confirmed yesterday the case would be finalised this year, saying: "It has been set down for May20 and 21." A full bench of the precedent-setting court will listen to McDonald's pleas on its trade mark.
McDonald's lawyer, Clifford Green, said the Durban case would go ahead two months before the Appellate Division hear- ing.
The issues we are going for are a bit different. The question in Durban is, was this guy trying to trade on McDonald's reputation? What will go on in the Appellate Division is the trade mark being expunged.
"If we win the Durban case it will help substantially because then the judge would have found we have a reputation," he said.
McDonald's opened its first two outlets in South Africa in November last year, shortly after Dax Properties George Charalambous opened a fast-food outlet in central Johannesburg under the name of MacDonald's. In October, the Pretoria Supreme Court ruled against the US firm in its bid to stop Charalambous, but allowed it to file an appeal.
McDonald's fight to protect its name and logo is being closely watched by investors.