Two Burger Restaurants Battle Over Signage in Trademark Infringement Case
In-N-Out Burger has a following of restaurant-goers that crave its “fresh to order” hamburgers. Since 1948, the company has excelled in burgers, fries, shakes and a devout commitment to clean, efficient fast food. It has also relied on its boomerang logo and signage to stand out from the competition since its inception. No wonder that In-N-Out Burger was recently shocked to find that another restaurant was using a very similar boomerang to promote its company.
The lawsuit, In-N-Out Burgers vs. Pappas Restaurants alleges that Pappas’ used boomerang arrow signage outside its Houston, Texas airport location. In-N-Out Burgers has more than 260 locations throughout California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. They allege that the boomerang logo is closely identified in the marketplace for In-N-Out Burgers and could cause confusion amongst the public. Thus, Pappas’ is allegedly engaging in trademark infringement under federal laws and unfair competition under Texas law, In-N-Out Burgers claims.
Pappas Burger has three burger restaurants in Houston and uses a yellow boomerang that bends with lights similar to In-N-Out’s signage. Case watchers say that the case will come down to how similar the signs are and how much confusion the two signs could have caused. What is interesting is that its logo is more of a baseball-oriented font and feel but the Houston signage does largely use a boomerang.
When companies go after each other for trademark infringement for a sign or logo, it shows that they are concerned about consumers being deceived, confused, or mistaking one company for another. Businesses spend a lot of time and money on signage and logos to have the public associate a set of words and images to their brand. Packaging, advertising, and promotions can also mirror the large-scale logo. Unless there is a partnership or marketing agreement that allows one business to utilize key parts of another’s logo for mutual benefit, trademark infringement can be charged.
An experienced trademark attorney is essential to protecting a logo and associated intellectual property assets. When a problem arises, a company can request a temporary injunction to prevent further harm, amongst other pursuits of resolution. Lost profits and losing part of a customer base can be devastating to a business when a trademark dispute arises. Moreover, in instances where a rival is acting in bad faith or confusion can be proven, monetary awards can be given. Punitive damages and attorney’s fees can also be sought after. Unjust enrichment and deterrence to continue the act of infringement is something that the courts will also look at when deciding a trademark case.
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