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EU Intellectual Property Office strips McDonald’s of ‘Big Mac’ trademark after battle with small Irish rival

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‘Big Mac’ trademark

The EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has stripped McDonald’s of its Big Mac trademark across Europe after the fact food giant lost a legal battle with a tiny rival chain in Ireland.

After a “David and Goliath” legal battle over the trademarking of the terms “Big Mac” and “Mc”, the EUIPO ruled in favour of Galway-based Supermac, telling McDonald’s that it had failed to prove “genuine use” of the terms in relation to a burger or restaurant.

The ruling means that other companies can use the terms, which McDonald’s trademarked in 1996.

Legal documents show the case was brought before the EUIPO in 2017 after McDonald’s objected to its smaller rival planning to expand into Britain and Europe.

Although Supermac does not and has never sold a product named “Big Mac”, McDonald’s argued that the company’s name sounded too similar to its most-famous burger, which it claimed would give the Irish firm an unfair advantage.

Supermac urged the EUIPO to revoke McDonald’s ownership of the “Mc” and “Big Mac” trademarks, accusing its much-larger competitor of “trademark bullying” and arguing that it registered protected names without using them in a bid to stifle competition.

The Irish firm noted that McDonald’s had trademarked the name of one of its most popular products, the SnackBox, even though the American company has never sold a product with that name.

EU rules stipulate that if a trademark has not been used for five years, the owner loses protection for it.

Dismissing McDonald’s claim, the EUIPO said in its ruling: “It follows from the above that the [trademark] proprietor has not proven genuine use of the contested [trademark] for any of the goods and services for which it is registered.

“As a result, the application for revocation is wholly successful and the contested [trademark] must be revoked in its entirety.”

Speaking with the Irish Independent after the ruling was handed down, Supermac founder and Manging Director Pat McDonagh said: “It’s been a long road, nearly four years, but it was worth it to help protect businesses that are trying to compete against faceless multinationals.

“It doesn’t matter how big or how small you are, it’s great that you can get a hearing from the European office. I’m delighted with the result; I was hopeful for a positive outcome – but not to the extent to which we won.”

McDonald’s, which has yet to comment on the court’s ruling, can now appeal the decision.

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British government releases £100 million to help police battle UK’s spiralling knife crime epidemic

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UK’s spiralling knife crime epidemic

The UK government yesterday announced £100 million (S132.7 million) in new funding to help police in England and Wales fight the country’s worsening knife crime crisis.

Since the beginning of the year, 39 people have been stabbed to death across the UK, including 17-year-old Jodie Chesney, who was knifed in the back in east London earlier this month.

Last year, the criminal justice system in England and Wales dealt with 21,484 knife and offensive weapon cases, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), with homicides reaching 135 in London alone.

Announcing the new money during his spring statement to UK Parliament yesterday, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the extra money would be used to bolster law enforcement agencies in the worst-affected regions across England and Wales, and will pay for a “surge” in street policing in problem areas.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who had pressed hard for extra funding to tackle the issue, commented: “I’ve listened to [police] concerns and this £100 million – including £80 million new funding from the Treasury – will allow them to swiftly crack down on knife crime on the areas of the country where it is most rife.

“This is on top of the £970 million of additional money that policing is already due to receive from April from the Government and Council Tax.”

In a report published earlier this week, England’s education regulator Ofsted revealed that organised criminal gangs are encouraging children to take knives into classes with “the sole purpose” of getting them excluded.

British county lines drugs gangs are known to recruit vulnerable children at risk of being expelled from school in the knowledge their victims will be easier to manipulate once they no longer have access to trusted adults such as teachers.

Debate has raged in the UK as to the cause of the escalation of the country’s violent crime epidemic, with some blaming police cuts and austerity introduced under the current Conservative government, and others pointing to a fall in police stop and searches, and cultural issues present in certain communities.

At the beginning of this week, police forces across England and Wales launched a seven-day crackdown on knife crime, which has seen officers set up knife surrender bins, increase stop and search activities, and conduct a number of weapons sweeps.

Launching the campaign in Suffolk, Superintendent Kerry Cutler said: “Young people face all sorts of pressures and therefore family, friends and role models are an important influence in their lives.

“Having a conversation with them about the dangers of carrying a knife may be difficult but talking and listening is critical to finding a solution to the growing problem we have seen nationally around knife crime.”

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Puppy smuggling gangs trafficking heavily-pregnant dogs into UK to dodge border checks

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trafficking heavily-pregnant dogs

A British animal charity has waned that puppy smuggling gangs are trafficking heavily-pregnant dogs into the UK as a means by which to avoid customs checks on large litters of infant canines.

Following a series of investigations, DogsTrust discovered that the cruel gangs behind the illicit trade are forcing dogs that are about to give birth to travel while in the latter stages of their pregnancies, a practice that is forbidden under the Welfare of Animals in Transport Order.

In one case, a pregnant dog being smuggled into the UK during the charity’s investigation gave birth to seven puppies soon after being seized by authorities.

Those puppies were later all rehomed by DogsTrust.

The charity said it has cared for close to 1,000 dogs smuggled into Britain since it launched a scheme to intercept trafficked puppies more than four years ago.

If these animals had not been intercepted by the charity, it is estimated they would have made the gangs that brought them into the country more than £1 million ($1.3 million).

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the puppies taken in since the beginning of the operation have been fashionable and high-value breeds such as French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Pugs that can fetch as much as £2,000 per dog in Britain.

Calling on the British government to take action to ban the practice, DogsTrust Veterinary Director Paula Boyden commented: “The complete disregard for the health and welfare of dogs being illegally imported is appalling.

“We were shocked to see such a heavily pregnant dog transported in this way.

“We urgently need to see a number of changes, including visual checks on all dogs entering the UK; out of hours and weekend cover at ports by government agencies and increased maximum penalties for those caught alongside punitive Fixed Penalty Notices.”

Many of the animals are brought in the UK from puppy farms in Eastern Europe by organised criminal gangs that are increasingly viewing the trade as a profitable and low-risk alternative to more traditional illegal activities such as the distribution of drugs or people smuggling.

Back in January, the Scottish SPCA revealed that the illegal online trade in young dogs in Scotland is worth approximately £13 million ($16.57 million) a year.

The charity said rogue dog dealers were tricking pet buyers by adopting tactics such as renting Airbnb properties to make it appear as though the animals they offered came from good homes.

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Coalition of global law enforcement agencies come together to fight online child sexual exploitation in the Philippines

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online child sexual exploitation in the Philippines

A coalition of law enforcement agencies from Australia, Britain and the Philippines have come together to launch a new initiative intended to tackle the online sexual exploitation of children across the Southeast Asian country.

The Philippines has become a global epicentre for organised criminal networks that livestream child sex shows for paedophiles mostly based in western countries such as the US, the UK and Australia.

Growing access to high-speed internet connections and rising levels of mobile phone ownership across Southeast Asia is fuelling the illicit trade, which sees impoverished families paid as much as $100 to have their children perform sex acts in front of a webcam.

Gangs behind the trade are also exploiting child abuse laws in the Philippines, which are much laxer than those typically found in western countries, and are using encrypted messaging apps such as Skype and WhatsApp to broadcast their livestreams.

The Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre (PICACC), which was opened at Camp Crame in Quezon City yesterday, brings together a number of domestic law enforcement agencies, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the International Justice Mission (IJM) NGO.

Throughout January, NCA officers taught their Filipino counterparts how to use specialist technology to identify and gather evidence against perpetrators of the crime across the country.

As well as equipping local investigators with the ability to better locate the criminal gangs behind the trade, the initiative is also intended to help them gather evidence without having to rely too heavily on the testimony of victims, which can be distressing for children who have been exposed to abuse.

According to official data, almost 45,700 incidents of the online sexual exploitation of children were reported to police in the Philippines in 2017, with around half of victims rescued by investigators aged 12 or younger.

Describing how nothing can be more appalling than the sexual exploitation of children, Janet Francisco, of the Philippines’s National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human-Trafficking Division, said: “It is an unforgivable act that deserves no less than condemnation from the international community.

“The advent of the internet era has made it easier for traffickers’ to prey on our helpless children, in an international extent. With the establishment of the PICACC, local and foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as NGOs, will be working hand in hand to save our children from abuse. It is a leap forward in our quest for a trafficking-free world.”

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