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California burger trademark wars: In-N-Out vs. Smashburger

To residents of California, the words "Double-Double and Triple Triple can only mean one thing: You're eating at an In-N-Out Burger fast food restaurant. A new burger created by rival restaurant, Smashburger, may give In-N-Out a run for its money. Smashburger introduced the "Triple Double" sandwich last month but In-N-Out is not pleased with the name of the new burger.

In-N-Out Burger is challenging the name Smashburger has chosen for its newest sandwich under trademark law by filing an infringement lawsuit. The long-standing fast food chain says that Smashburger's "Triple Double" burger may confuse and mislead consumers because of its similarity to trademarked "Double-Double" and "Triple Triple" burgers offered by In-N-Out. As a result, this would cause harm to In-N-Out Burger because consumers may believe the "Triple Double" is licensed by, or connected to, the In-N-Out chain.

The In-N-Out Burger has held trademarks for the two sandwiches mentioned in the lawsuit since the mid-1960s. By contrast, Smashburger sandwiches in general have only existed since 2007. The lawsuit alleges that Smashburger has engaged in trademark infringement as well as trademark dilution and unfair competition. In-N-Out is seeking an injunction to prevent Smashburger from using the name "Triple Double" for its latest sandwich.

When individuals or companies choose names and phrases that are too close to other trademarked products, it causes harm to the original user. Trademark laws in America recognize this harm, which can pave the way for the injured party to seek a legal remedy. In short, those who violate trademark law in the state of California and the rest of the nation are not immune from the penalties associated with this kind of infringement.

Source: L.A. BIZ, "In-N-Out Burger suing Smashburger over trademark infringement," I-Chun Chen, Aug. 29, 2017

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