Michigan Burger Restaurant Sued for Looking Too Similar to In-N-Out
Few fast food companies have a reputation like In-N-Out. The Southern California-based burger chain is beloved by many, but is also no stranger to controversy. (And I'm not just talking about their French fries!) Perhaps preserving its unique image is the reason behind the company's track record of litigation. Beyond suing other burger restaurants, they've also gotten embroiled with delivery services and even a dry cleaners to protect their brand identity. Now, the chain has reportedly sued a pair of restaurants for having what they claim is a similar design to In-N-Out.
Michigan's Doll n' Burgers — which launched in May of last year and operates two locations, one in Tecumseh and one in Jackson — has been sued by In-N-Out due to its overall look, according to The Daily Telegram. The local paper explains that Doll n' Burgers features "white, red and yellow color schemes including a white exterior and red awning at the Tecumseh location on East Chicago Boulevard and white interior with red stripes and gray countertop and red upholstery for the furniture; its employees dressed in white, collared shirts, red aprons and red-and-white ball caps or paper hats; white cups with red graphics; open-ended burger wrappers; the use of a single 'N' in its name; a classic-car motif; and the layout of the indoor and drive-thru menu boards" — all of which are alleged to be too similar to In-N-Out's trade dress which is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"The look, and feel and the décor, the appearance of the Doll n' Burgers restaurant is too similar to In-N-Out," Brian Wasson, In-N-Out Burger's attorney, said according to Michigan's MLive.com last month. The site reports that In-N-Out initially requested that Doll n' Burgers change its "look and feel" but the company refused.
Founder Justin Dalenberg clarified that the name was a play on the pronunciation of his own last name and, as for the look, Doll n' Burgers legal retort reportedly argues that many of the conventions the chain uses can be found at all sorts of burger chains across the fast food industry. "[My dad and I] always dreamed of opening a real simple, old-school, classic burger joint that had a drive-thru and focused on classic cars," he was quoted as saying.
In a humorous mathematical twist, both sides' lawyers apparently hired marketing experts to assess the odds that customers would confuse the two brands: In-N-Out's team pegged the chance of confusion at 49.3 percent while Doll n' Burgers put the number at zero percent.
The Daily Telegram reports that a trial was slated to begin last month but was canceled pending resolution of the motions.