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In-N-Out Is Suing This Small Michigan Burger Chain

Eat This, Not That! logo Eat This, Not That! 12/7/2021 Owen Duff
doll n' burgers © Provided by Eat This, Not That! doll n' burgers

In-N-Out is seeing red . . . and white and yellow. The famous West coast chain has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Michigan burger restaurant Doll n' Burgers, claiming that the chain is copying its look—in particular, its iconic, three-tone color scheme.

As reported by the Michigan newspaper Daily Telegram, In-N-Out is arguing that key elements of Doll n' Burgers' visual design⁠—including its use of a red, white, and yellow color arrangement⁠—are too close to its own and infringe on its copyright.

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Specifically, In-N-Out takes issue with Doll n' Burgers' use of a red-on-white theme for its restaurants' exteriors and interiors, its use of red upholstery, its employee uniforms, its use of "white cups with red graphics," the design of its indoor and drive-thru menus, and its use of a single "N" in its name.

What's more, the chain is suggesting that Doll n' Burgers knowingly lifted its look, pointing out in a filing that the Michigan chain's founders were familiar with the In-N-Out brand prior to launching their own burger concept.

Founded by Justin Dalenburger (the brand's namesake) and Ken Heers, Doll n' Burgers hit the scene in May 2020, with the first restaurant in Tecumseh, Mich., and a second soon after in Jackson.

In its response to the lawsuit, the Michigan chain pointed out the red, white, and yellow color scheme is common in the fast-food industry and used by brands as diverse as McDonald's, Five Guys, Burger King, and Steak 'n Shake.


Video: In-N-Out Burger sues Michigan burger restaurant, do they have a case? (FOX News)

Both In-N-Out and Doll n' Burgers have consulted marketing experts to assess the similarity of their respective visual designs. According to the Michigan chain's expert, there is exactly a 0% chance that customers would mistake the brands, while In-N-Out's expert is quoted reporting a 49.3% chance of brand confusion.

Both parties are seeking a summary judgment in the case, and are currently waiting for a ruling. In-N-Out is hoping for damages, as well as destruction of the property it claims infringes on its copyright. Doll n' Burgers is seeking a cancellation of In-N-Out's trade dress registration, an official refutation of the claims made against it, and compensation for legal fees.

In-N-Out has been in-and-out of headlines the past few months, following violations of COVID restrictions in San Francisco and Los Angeles and a defiant public statement against "vaccination polic[ing]."

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