Pop Quiz: You’ve traveling from the East coast to California and your plane lands at LAX. You’ve got a few hours to kill and a rental car at your disposal. What do you do?
There's probably around a 50 percent chance your first thought was “drive to the nearest In-N-Out Burger,” and if it was, you’re not alone. Visiting the California burger chain is, for many West coast voyagers, not only a rite of passage, but a way of life. People living in or visiting the six states where the chain has locations go absolutely crazy over the fast-food brand’s lineup of addictive burgers (though maybe not the fries). And we’re not speaking hyperbolically.
Tell us this is not what crazy looks like.
But having a cult following doesn’t just happen. You have to maintain high standards for your food and service—In-N-Out does this well—and you have to watch out/protect yourself from would-be copycats trying to steal your spotlight—In-N-Out does this exceedingly well. But does their latest lawsuit take things to far?
Earlier this week, Eater reported that In-N-Out has filed a lawsuit against fellow California-based burger chain, Smashburger, alleging that one of its new offerings is a rip-off of their trademarked menu items. Eater notes that “the complaint filed on August 28 in California claims that Smashburger’s 'Triple Double' burger is too similar to In-N-Out’s Double-Double and Triple Triple” resulting in a clear case of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution of the burger brand’s trademark. In-N-Out’s Double-Double has been trademarked since 1963, and the Triple Triple (no hyphen) was trademarked a few years later in 1966.
So what’s the difference between the three menu offerings? It all comes down to a numbers game. In-N-Out’s Double-Double features two beef patties and two slices of cheese, while their Triple Triple, or 3x3, adds a third patty and slice of cheese to create a 3 patty/3 cheese slice creation. Smashburger’s new offering, the Triple Double, falls right between In-N-Out’s ingredient counts, using two beef patties and three slices of cheese.
Yes, it’s a little convoluted.
In-n-Out is plenty familiar with lawsuits—they've filed more than their fare share against other companies for trademark, logo, and brand infringement—but it’s hard to say if cheese slice count is one that they’ll really be able to win.
Either way? We don’t think their devoted disciples will really care.
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