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Burger Chains’ Treasure Trove of Trademarks

wendys_sweater99Wendy’s new advertising slogan, “You know when it’s real,” seems to be catching on. It’s bouncy, hummable and memorable. But is it as in-your-face self-confident as “This is a burger town, pretty boy”? Wendy’s owns that phrase, too, among many others.

At the bottom of Wendy’s home page, there’s a tiny-type link labeled “Legal.” Not surprisingly, it takes you to a bunch of legalese, but the “Intellectual Property Rights” section is fascinating. It’s like a closet where old ad slogans, menu-item names and other trademarked phrases are collecting dust. McDonald’s and other QSRs have similar but not as rich stashes of curiosities.

My favorite piece of Wendy’s intellectual property: “You want fiber? Eat a sweater.” Whoa! You got served, health freaks. This and the “pretty boy” line (both created by agency Bates Worldwide) were used in Wendy’s print ads a decade ago. The chain’s late founder Dave Thomas was pictured on those ads because a line like “You want fiber? Eat a sweater.” is even funnier coming from Dave. It would be creepy/confrontational coming from the plastic-head Burger King. Ronald just wouldn’t say it.

Full disclosure: The name of this blog is in part an homage to “The best burgers in the business,” a Wendy’s slogan that Dave Thomas delivered, pronouncing the last word as “biness” in his great, folksy way. The “plenty of napkins” phrase in this blog’s subtitle also is an intentional echo of a Wendy’s ad phrase. The napkins line isn’t in Wendy’s trademark closet, but “The best burgers in the business” is there, waiting for revival. So are these phrases:

“Eat life up”: A nice aspirational line. I don’t know if or when Wendy’s has used it in ads.
“Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger” : This could explain why Burger King’s Steakhouse Burger doesn’t come with bacon and cheese.
“Built by quality, powered by performance”: Did Wendy’s make trucks in the past? Nope. Wendy’s informs me this was used as an operators-convention theme.
“Wendy’s rules the night”: Not a gang slogan, it was used for an internal employee-incentive program for  building late-night business, I believe.

mcbaconThe Whataburger chain collects Whata-prefix terms like McDonald’s gathers Mc-terms. It owns “Whatacatch,” “Whatameal,” “Whatasize it!” and many more.

Want to use the term “Burger Television”? You can’t. In-N-Out Burger owns it and “BTV.” It also trademarked “The best enterprise is a free enterprise,” which has limited burger applicability but could be a rallying cry for Ron Paul’s next presidential campaign.

McDonald’s? The chain that recently lost its claim to the term McCurry in Malaysia, has lots of words and phrases trademarked. Among them:
“Mac Jr.”: A future member of the Dollar Menu?
“Morning Mac”: Burgers for breakfast, anyone?
“McBacon”: Good thing it trademarked this term now that bacon is everywhere. It was used by McDonald’s in advertising in Norway in 1998. Norwegians get all the cool stuff.

2 comments to Burger Chains’ Treasure Trove of Trademarks

  • MEP

    Great piece! If I run into a Norweigan today I’m going to use “McBacon” in a sentence. I’ll let you know if their eyes light up.

  • AK

    The Mac Jr. was on the Dollar Menu at the beginning of the decade in the NYC area. It was basically a one patty Big Mac. I miss them – they were one of my favorite items.

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