The year 2017 is a record year for opening American fast food chains in the Netherlands, as they seem to be ‘flooding the Dutch market’. On the menu is Dunkin’ Donuts (relaunch after failing in 1997), TGI Friday’s (relaunch after failing in 1997), Five Guys, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut (relaunch after failing in 1973).
While McDonald’s and Burger King are well established fast food chains in the Netherlands, the third big name in burgers, Wendy’s, is nowhere to be found. Wendy’s opened a branch in Rotterdam in 1985 for 1.5 years, having already trademarked its name several times in the late 1970s, the late 1980s and on 1 and 7 December 1995. Wendy’s opened a few places in Belgium and Luxembourg, but eventually disappeared after 1986, although in 1987 they got a 10-year extension on the name, as trademarks are valid for 10 years and can be extended for 10 years at a time.
In 1988 Raymond Warrens bought out a snack bar and a croissant shop in Goes, Zeeland and named them after his daughter, Wendy, which is also what Wendy’s International founder Dave Thomas did. When Warrens registered the name of his businesses with the Chamber of Commerce, they said the name wasn’t a problem. Sometime later Warrens decided to trademark his company name on 16 February 1995.
Wendy’s International threatened Wendy’s from the Netherlands, and Wendy’s from the Netherlands fought back. Wendy’s International felt that they were a known brand and that Warrens trademarked his company name in bad faith, while Warrens says he had never heard of Wendy’s, that Wendy’s International was no longer registered with the Chamber of Commerce and that the trademark was no longer active in the Benelux.
Wendy’s International knew about Wendy’s from the Netherlands, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent threats. And much later in 1995 they reactivated their trademark, after Warrens had registered his. This meant that Wendy’s International was acting in bad faith, not Warrens. Warrens successfully had Wendy’s International’s trademark revoked and Wendy’s International was not happy.
Wendy’s International took their grievance to the European court and lost. To quote one of Warrens’ employees in the Volkskrant newspaper, “They [Wendy’s International] certainly didn’t expect that a hick from Zeeland would be a nuisance for 20 years”. And Wendy’s International is apparently going to fight some more, so we’ll update you some day.