Malaysia's 'McCurry' cheers win over McDonald's

A small Malaysian restaurant is once again proudly trading as "McCurry", after its unlikely victory in an eight-year legal battle with US fast food giant McDonald's.

Co-owner of Malaysia's McCurry restaurant Kanageswary Suppiah. (AFP Photo)

With its trays of fragrant tandoori chicken and fish masala, and customers at formica tables cooled by fans turning lazily overhead, the business is difficult to confuse with McDonald's and its racks of burgers.

"You can't have fries with that but we do have a very good potato curry," owner AMSP. Suppiah, 55, says with a laugh.

But Suppiah and his wife Kanageswary spent eight years battling in the courts for the right to retain the name of the business, pursued by McDonald's lawyers who forced them to operate as "M Curry" for several years.

"We were surprised that a giant like McDonald's would want to take action against us even though there was nothing in common between us and them," Suppiah said.

"We decided to appeal because we felt we were right and the court of appeal agreed with us this week," he said after a Malaysian court ruled the business had not infringed on the McDonald's trademark by using the prefix "Mc".

To the delight of the local press which has covered the landmark case closely, Suppiah then took a tall ladder to climb to the brightly coloured signboard and reinstate the controversial "c".

Tucking into a breakfast of "dosai" or Indian pancakes, Suppiah says he never expected to win the battle against the international food giant.

"There were times when we almost gave up hope because who would have imagined that we could win against such a big company with so much money and resources at their disposal," he said.

The mom and pop operation is one of numerous simple restaurants serving up Indian fare in this multicultural country, which is dominated by Muslim Malays but also home to ethnic Indian and Chinese communities.

Suppiah, a former accountant, says his troubles began when he set up the restaurant in 1999, shortening the name Malaysian Chicken Curry Restaurant to the McCurry restaurant.

"But within a year, I began receiving letters from McDonald's urging me to change the name and threatening legal action."

Unable to resolve the impasse, McDonald's sued Suppiah and a Malaysian High Court agreed with the hamburger chain in 2006, forcing Suppiah to remove the prefix from his signs and business.

Kanageswary says she is thrilled with the legal U-turn, but adds the victory has come at a cost.

"We faced a lot of mental anguish and embarrassment over the issue and for eight years our business has been in limbo because no one wants to invest in a company facing litigation and so we have not been able to make any improvements to the restaurant," she said.

"Hopefully, we can move on now."

However, the Suppiahs' lawyer Sri Dev Nair thinks McDonald's will not give up so easily.

"The case has shown that McDonald's want to control the monopoly over the use of the prefix 'Mc' and it has a lot of money to be able to do this so many small restaurants just give in to them," he said.

"We expect them to challenge the ruling and we will be prepared to face them in court."

The US corporation can apply to have the case reviewed in the Federal Court, which is the court of last resort on the matter.

Suppiah says he does not hold any grudges.

"My children like eating at McDonald's so I will continue going there and I would like to invite the president of McDonald's worldwide to come here to McCurry's and have a dosai, on the house -- but we can't supersize it."

Source: AFP

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