A FATHER’S rights activist has been left “stunned” after Barnet Council threatened to sue him for a McDonald’s parody campaign.
Matt O’Connor, who runs Fathers4Justice, received a letter from the authority on behalf of the multi-billion pound fast food giant, ordering he suspend one of his latest advertising gimmicks.
The 49-year-old is running a campaign ahead of Father’s Day selling t-shirts and boxers featuring the iconic golden arches, McDads and a play on its well-known slogan: ‘I’m not lovin it’.
He said: “In our community, it’s fairly common to see dads spending the few hours they have with their children on a Saturday or a Sunday in McDonald's.
“It’s a metaphor of the desperation they face. It’s not passing as McDonald's, it’s a deliberate, satirical campaign. It’s not even the actual slogan.
“Barnet Council do not seem to have got the humour behind our campaign.”
The father-of-three is also questioning why the letter came from Barnet Council’s Trading Standards instead of McDonald's itself.
While McDonald's head office is in East Finchley, Mr O’Connor, who lives in Clapham, says he has no personal links to the area.
Lawyers have now agreed to defend Mr O’Connor and he hopes the parody will be protected under freedom of speech laws.
He added: “I am not sure what Barnet’s jurisdiction on this is. The campaign is clearly a parody and we are pretty miffed. I was stunned when I got the letter.
“This obscenely wealthy corporation is threatening to prosecute an organisation which supports thousands of fathers and families. I’m not sure what Barnet Council’s jurisdiction here is.
“We aren’t pretending to sell burgers – it’s just a humorous campaign. If I lived in Barnet I’d be even angrier that my tax is being used in this way.”
Mr O’Connor launched Fathers4Justice in 2001 after he went through a divorce and was denied access to his three sons.
He said: “After a difficult process which left me in a difficult place, I turned my life around. I saw my kids and started this campaign – not for me – but to make sure my three boys will never have to go through what I went through.”
McDonalds spokesperson Louise Page said: “We contacted Fathers 4 Justice in March last year to discuss their sale of clothing that incorporated McDonald’s trade marks without our consent. We asked them to stop this use and they refused.
"We contacted our local Trading Standards authority and they have written to Fathers 4 Justice.
"As with any organisation, we take the appropriate and necessary steps to defend our brand, including against any unauthorised use of our trade marks.”
A Barnet Council spokesperson, who the authority refused to name, said: “We have a duty to investigate trademark infringements reported to us by our residents and businesses based in the borough.
"In this case, our team issued a standard notice letter to Fathers4Justice and we made it clear in the letter that we are not looking to pursue enforcement action at this time - we simply ask that they stop selling the concerning items.”
The Times Series has requested comment from Barnet Council.