In-N-Out Takes Trademark Complaints to Court

Suit against Grab-N-Go Burger latest in series of legal actions against alleged infringements

Known for its fierce protection of its trademarks, In-N-Out Burger is in court again with a complaint against Grab-N-Go Burger in Maryland for using similar logo colors, trade-dress and menu descriptions as the Irvine, Calif.-based burger chain.

The most recent lawsuit, filed last week, contends that the single-unit Grab-N-Go Burger in Aberdeen, Md., uses a red-and-yellow logo similar to In-N-Out’s, as well as a comparable interior color scheme. Grab-N-Go also serves a “wild style burger,” which In-N-Out’s attorneys contend mimics the trademarked “Animal Style” option on the California chain’s widely publicized “secret menu.”

Grab-N-Go has not filed a response in court, and attempts to reach the company were unsuccessful at press time.

In-N-Out has in recent years vigorously battled what the company’s attorneys have argued are trademark violations. The lawsuits have typically been settled or dropped after the court forces the defendant to make changes. Numerous suits over the years have included both restaurants and businesses outside the industry.

Among them are In-N-Out Smog Check and In N’ Out Payday Advance, as well as In-N-Out Pizza, In & Out Wraps and Nicky’s In-N-Out Gyros, according to court filings.
More recent lawsuits have focused on features such as the names of menu items and trade-dress colors and design.

In 2007, In-N-Out reportedly sued a Utah-based burger chain called Chadder’s, which listed menu items like the “double double,” similar to a burger on In-N-Out’s menu, which at the time was planning to expand into Utah.

The three-unit Chadder’s chain appears to have closed, with phone numbers disconnected.

In March, In-N-Out sued ConAgra Foods Inc. for its use of the phrase “Quality You Can Taste” on Hunt’s ketchup bottles. In-N-Out argued that the registered phrase is closely associated with its brand, according to court documents, as it has been using it on signage and packaging for years.

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Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out’s vice president and general counsel, said in a statement Tuesday that the company has been working hard to develop the unique look and feel of its restaurants since its inception in 1948.

“Consumers have come to associate our ‘In-N-Out’ name, yellow arrow, long-standing colors, restaurant décor, menu design and unique menu items, such as ‘Animal Style’ burgers, with the highest in food quality and freshness,” he said. “We will always vigorously defend our trademarks and trade-dress against any and all copycats and imitators, but, as in every case, we also look for friendly resolutions with all parties.”

— Lisa Jennings

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