In-N-Out Owns Its Inside Look, Says Judge In Ongoing Doll n’ Burgers Lawsuit

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JACKSON, MI — In-N-Out owns the look of its restaurants’ interiors, according to a ruling in a lawsuit against another hamburger restaurant with locations in Jackson and Tecumseh.

In-N-Out Burger, a large regional chain headquartered in California, filed a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in July 2020 against locally-based Doll n’ Burgers for alleged violation of dress commercial, stating Doll n’ Burger Restaurants is too much like In-N-Out.

Related: Doll n’ Burgers looks too much like In-N-Out Burger, lawsuit claims

Trade dress is a type of branding that refers to the overall image and appearance of a product or company. Counterfeiting occurs when one company resembles another enough to confuse the public.

In March, the judge granted In-N-Out’s motion to dismiss Doll n’ Burgers’ argument to void In-N-Out’s registered trade dress, records show, stating that the registered trade dress is recognizable to the public.

The decision states that in 2015, In-N-Out obtained registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for trade dress representing the interior of its restaurants. Doll n’ Burgers, however, argued that In-N-Out had misled in its trade dress request that none of its expenditures were for inserting this trade dress into its promotions, which is required by law. The judge dismissed Doll ‘n Burgers’ argument.

In-N-Out’s registered trade dress depicts the restaurants interior layout, including its red and white color scheme, restaurant counter aesthetic, as well as its red and white seating area, according to the archives.

While this is a victory for In-N-Out, there are still other parts of the lawsuit to be decided. This includes whether or not In-N-Out has valid common law business dress, and whether or not Doll n’ Burgers has infringed this. Records show it will be up to a jury to decide and a date has yet to be set, according to the records.

In-N-Out cited nine elements of its common law trade dress, including its color scheme, interior and exterior decor, menu layout, employee uniforms, and use of the letter “N” in its name.

In-N-Out and Doll n’ Burgers declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In-N-Out Burger was founded in the 1940s and today has more than 350 restaurants, mostly in the western United States. Doll n’ Burgers, founded by Justin Dalenberg, has two Michigan locations, the original in Tecumseh and one in Jackson.

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