While it's too soon to tell, WalletPop has learned in an exclusive that high-level McDonald's officials reached out to McClusky on Friday to request a meeting to resolve the matter and move forward. Though on an ocean liner headed for Japan as part of the Semester at Sea program, McClusky has tentatively agreed to speak with McDonald's executives by video conference.
The McSummit could take place within the next two weeks -- and marks a huge break in the logjam between the fast-food giant and McClusky, whose McFest concerts have raised more than $30,000 for Special Olympics.
McClusky had faced a Monday deadline with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to answer McDonald's objections after she tried to trademark the McFest name. McDonald's, it turns out, owns the rights to more McNames than you can shake a Quarter Pounder at: from McJob, McBuddy and McPen to the prefix "Mc" itself.
"We're really enthusiastic that there's an opportunity between Lauren and McDonald's to grow and enhance an event that benefits Special Olympics and perhaps McDonald's," her father Jeff said in a prepared statement. "We look forward to a positive solution that will help even more kids than Lauren had ever dared to imagine."
The situation between McClusky, 19, and McDonald's, first reported on WalletPop, became a national news story and made the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times under the headline "McFight." More than 1 million page views were generated on AOL, along with thousands of comments -- an overwhelming majority defending McClusky -- when it was revealed that $5,000 from her 2009 concert went to legal fees as opposed to Special Olympics kids.
The bad press didn't help either, as McDonald's spokespeople refused to answer questions in real time, only fueling consumer anger. Facebook pages sprung up defending McClusky, and thousands of consumers promised to boycott until McDonald's backed off.
When McDonald's demanded that McClusky change her event name, the teen entrepreneur and Boston University student refused, saying that after three years of successful shows, McFest had become a recognized entity in the Chicago area with a high value attached to it. McClusky had branched McFest into a record label and a student service award at her high school alma mater in Lake Forest, Ill.
Yet there seems to be warming on both sides to a creative naming solution. This could involve a "McFest" alteration that would appear almost indistinguishable to the average person when compared to the present moniker. This could involve punctuation and capitalization to work around the trademark snafu, her dad said.
"It does seem that McDonald's may insist on a variation of the McFest name, which of course we will consider as ultimately more beneficial to Special Olympics," Jeff McClusky said. "Even though a name change a while ago sounded like an ominous type of demand, it now seems secondary to the greater good of all involved."
He added that the proposed meeting was set up by an intermediary close to both McDonald's and the McCluskys.
Meanwhile, McClusky's attorney Ryan Hinshaw had just secured a 30-day extension on the pending trademark action by McDonald's, meaning that the legal wrangling might be rendered moot if an agreement can be reached before March 8.