California Intellectual Property Blog


In-N-Out Sues Smashburger for Trademark Infringement

Orange County, California – Infamous burger joint In-n-Out Burger, which originated in Baldwin Park, California in 1948, is suing its new lead competitor Smashburger for a trademark infringement. In-N-Out is currently headquartered in Irvine, California and has 326 locations. Smashburger is a gourmet burger restaurant that started in Denver, Colorado in 2007 and has quickly grown to over 300 locations as well.

While Smashburger is still a new chain, it has gained popularity quite rapidly due to its gourmet and regionally diverse burgers. To date, Smashburger already has more than 370 locations in 37 states and 9 countries.

In-N-Out has used its registered trademarks for DOUBLE-DOUBLE and TRIPLE TRIPLE since 1963 and 1966, respectively. Smashburger debuted its Triple Double burger in July of 2017. The Smashburger Triple Double features two burger patties and three slices of cheese. In-N-Out claims that Smashburger’s use of “triple-double” is too much like its own DOUBLE-DOUBLE and TRIPLE TRIPLE trademarks and that is it intended to mislead the public into thinking Smashburger products are related to or authorized by In-N-Out burger.

Despite this alleged trademark infringement, In-N-Out will no doubt continue to be successful partly due to its iconic secret menu. In-N-Out has gained notoriety for secret menu items such as Animal Style fries which are French fries topped with cheese, grilled onions, and In-N-Out’s special sauce.

Smashbuger’s claim to fame is its unique cooking method of “smashing” burgers. Smashburger puts a steady press on the fresh and never frozen angus beef patties and uses butter in its oil to both evenly cook the meat as well as lock in moisture. In additional to these methods, Smashburger dresses burgers with gourmet toppings such as goat cheese, truffle mayonnaise, and mini portabella mushrooms. These toppings also vary by region to offer a new Smashburger experience at various locations across the U.S. while still remaining under eight dollars per meal in a ten-minute prep-time.

In-N-Out has a history of protecting its brand from copycats and in the past has sued restaurants for similar décor, uniforms and logos. It may not be a coincidence in that other restaurants are likely tempted to try to replicate some of In-N-Out’s success.


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