burgers; litigation; trademark; identical tradename; injunction

The Fight Over Burgers

The Burger Battle of the Decade

Most people love a nice, juicy hamburger or two, and most will have their favorite burger chains that they frequent whenever they have a craving. All those burger joints are vying for these beef-loving customers, and sometimes that means the burger giants are going to have a bit of a battle that moves beyond marketing and into the legal ring. That’s just what happened with In-N-Out and Smashburger recently.

What’s the Beef?

It seems that In-N-Out believes that Smashburger has violated their trademark of a phrase they use for their burgers – “Double Double.” It seems that Smashburger had added an item to their menu called the “Triple Double”, and In-N-Out believe that this could cause confusion in the customer base and make some customers believe that the two burger joints are somehow connected with one another. The phrase “Double Double” is trademarked, and this does make the case interesting to see just how a judge might view the burger names.

In fact, In-N-Out has had the name as a registered trademark for decades – since 1966 in fact. Compare this to Smashburger, which was founded in Denver, CO in 2007, and who did not name the “Triple Double” until 2017.

In-N-Out wants to have an injunction against Smashburger to stop them from continuing to use their name “Triple Double”, even though it is not identical to their trademark. They feel that it is close enough that it will still create some confusion in the marketplace. They also want to receive monetary compensation for what they believe is the unauthorized use of their trademark, as well as to reduce the profits that Smashburger is gaining.

Other In-N-Out Lawsuits

With this burger company, it seems like they are in and out of court more often than some attorneys. They have had several other legal battles over the years with many involving their trademarks, of which they are very protective. Let’s look at a couple of different examples.

In 2015, they sued DoorDash, a company that is essentially a delivery service. A customer places an order online, and then one of the “dashers” goes to a restaurant and picks up the food, which they will then deliver to the customer. It seemed like an easy way for people to get their In-N-Out without having to wait in the long lines themselves. However, In-N-Out sued the company to make sure they do not deliver from their restaurants. They claimed that the logo that DoorDash uses looks similar to their logo, and that the delivery drivers are not compliant with food safety procedures and do not have food handling licenses.

The California company also had a copyright infringement action with Nicky’s In-N-Out Gyros in Illinois because of the similarity of their name, as well as similarities to the logo. They had another case against a burger joint in Utah called Chadders, which they said took its logo colors and secret menu. In addition, they filed a trademark violation lawsuit against a drycleaner in Kansas who was using the same name and a similar logo.

One thing is clear; do not mess with In-N-Out.