For the past three years, Chicago teen Lauren McClusky has held a fundraiser for Special Olympics. The festival, which she named McFest as a variant on her name, consists of high school and college bands and has raised $30,000 to date. Pretty ambitious and admirable for a teenager. When I was in high school, my charity activities largely consisted of trying to meet girls and buy beer underage, generally failing miserably at both.

For her laudable efforts, Lauren has been rebuffed by the McDonald's Corporation. When she tried to register the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, McDonald's filed a challenge, claiming the fest would be linked to the chain. The trial date is pending and she has spent $5,000 defending the challenge thus far.

I don't want to fall into the knee-jerk populist trap of bashing the big, evil corporation in defense of the little guy. Sadly, there's no other way to look at this scenario. This is a classic case of a company getting it completely wrong. They are confusing protecting their brand with protecting a variation of their name. Whether you love their food or hate it, (I fall into the latter category), McDonald's has done many admirable things for charity. Their Ronald McDonald houses provide families with children in hospitals a place to stay that is comfortable, close to the hospital, at little or no cost. By and large, they have been a fairly solid corporate citizen.

They really screwed up on this one however. The last thing a company with a brand based on family and community needs is the appearance of being the corporate spoiler of a grass roots event to do some good for kids with special needs. McDonald's is so focused on protecting the variants of the “Mc” name, they have lost sight of why that name is valuable to the communities they serve in the first place.