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McDonald's restaurant in Paris, FranceObservers with the time and inclination to comb through trademark or patent filings can uncover some interesting indications of where companies are planning their next strategic moves. A couple of recent trademark filings by some familiar restaurant names suggest the possibility of some innovative approaches to bring diners in their doors.

In particular, McDonald’s has filed for trademark protection for the term “McBrunch,” which implies that the fast-food giant might be trying to find a new time frame for consumption. The time limits on McDonald’s breakfast menu items have long been a source of frustration for consumers. In response, McDonald’s has tested making Egg McMuffins and related items available in a different meal window, namely, from midnight to 4:00 a.m. This McDonald’s After Midnight menu only appears in selected locations though.

Similarly, it might roll out a brunch concept on a limited basis. Traditionally, brunch would be held between mid-morning and mid-afternoon hours. If McDonald’s actually intends to introduce a brunch component to its menus and stores, it might mean that pancake lovers could get their fix even into the early afternoon, rather than having to worry about getting out of bed early enough to catch breakfast.

Rather than a new menu, another well-known chain has signaled a possible service innovation with its trademark filing. Applebee’s recently sought protection for the phrase “No Tech Tuesday,” prompting some speculation that perhaps it would try to appeal to people who are fed up with constant connectivity and want to turn off for an evening. Would it require diners to turn off their smartphones before entering? Offer discounts to those who left their tablets at home? Impose quiet zones throughout restaurants?

These and other questions remain unanswered. Neither company has formally announced any plans to introduce related innovations—and they might never do so. In some cases, companies establish trademark protections for ideas they never implement, just in case they ever decide to experiment with the notion. A trademark filing is not a requirement for the introduction of a new product or service. But it certainly is a fun hint of potential things to come.

SOURCE:Maureen Morrison, “McDonald’s Files Trademark for ‘McBrunch’,” Advertising Age, September 11, 2014, http://adage.com

Discussion Question

Would McDonald’s benefit from introducing a McBrunch? Why or why not?