Supermac's has lost a major battle in its brand war with fast-food giant McDonald's in a ruling that deals a hammer blow to the Irish firm's international expansion plans.
In the surprise decision, the EU office that decides on trademark disputes has upheld McDonald's opposition against Supermac's using its own brand across Europe to sell its famous snack boxes or to operate fast-food restaurants.
In a split decision, the ruling does allow Supermac's the consolation that it can use its brand name and trade name in the EU - but not to operate fast-food restaurants or to sell meat, fish, poultry, chicken nuggets, chips, onion rings or hamburgers under that brand name.
The precedent set by the ruling also puts into doubt Supermac's expansion plans in Australia, where McDonald's is also opposing the Supermac's trademark being used.
The Irish firm's arguments were roundly rejected by the EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM).
In a 24-page ruling, the OHIM agreed with McDonald's that Supermac's application for a trademark is likely to cause confusion amongst the public over the two different fast-food brands and their fast-food products.
In his submission, Pat McDonagh argued that he has used the Supermac's brand in Ireland since 1978 and there has never been any confusion between the two brands here.
The OHIM stated that Mr McDonagh considered this to be sufficient to prevent the public from establishing a link between the brands.
However, the OHIM dismissed Mr McDonagh's argument as irrelevant because the rights of McDonald's trademark are earlier than Supermac's trademark application.
The OHIM gives Supermac's the right to appeal and it has four months in which to do so.
Mr McDonagh described the ruling as "contradictory" and "questionable".
"It is difficult to understand why they would allow the brand name but not allow us to sell the food we sell. We are quite surprised," he said.