Why Burger King Tried to Block the Trademark For a 9th Century Manuscript

Chrisloader, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Chrisloader, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Chrisloader, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript of the New Testament Gospels, is well regarded as a national treasure in Ireland.

For 60 years, its home has been the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin, and recently, the university sought to register a global trademark for “Book of Kells” and “BK merchandise” in order to sell products with illustrations from the manuscript. The greater goal of that venture was to raise money to allocate toward the upkeep and preservation of the library's rare book collection.

All of that was totally fine—until the trademark application came up in the U.S. and caught the attention of fast food giant Burger King. The restaurant chain called foul, citing trademark infringement, specifically the use of the letters “BK.” Two companies are able to trademark the same name, as long as there’s little chance for confusion, so it seemed odd that the folks at Burger King would have such a beef with a manuscript from circa 800.

Luckily, the two BKs were able to work out their differences: Burger King backed off from initial objections and Trinity was able to get its trademark.

Paul Corrigan, retail and merchandising manager for the university, told the Irish Independent, "Eventually, they understood that Trinity College was not interested in the fast-food business."

For more on the Book of Kells, visit the Library of Trinity College Dublin online, where you can read up on the artifact and view the entire manuscript in their digital collection.