Unauthorized use IN ‘N’ TM infringement suit OUT

juicy-burger-i-1540447Over the past few years, worldwide, there has been a steady increase in the number of IP suits being instituted. Adding to the already existing plethora of cases is In-N-Out Burger (hereinafter, the ‘Plaintiff’), the popular fast food chain, which has filed a complaint in United States District Court Central District of California, against DoorDash (hereinafter, the ‘Defendant’), a food delivery service, which assures delivery of the food within an hour from different restaurants. The complaint was filed on the grounds of trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition.

The grievance of the Plaintiff was that the Defendant, though not affiliated with the former, delivered its food products to customers. Moreover, in order to promote their delivery service, the Defendant was also using a mock In-N-Out logo, among other registered marks. This unauthorized use of marks by the Defendant, created an impression in the minds of the customers that Defendant was affiliated to the Plaintiff or that they had taken the necessary authorization from the Plaintiff.

In 2014, the Plaintiff communicated their concern to the Defendant, requesting the latter to refrain from using their marks as well as to stop delivering their food products to customers; a follow up letter was also sent. Finally the CEO of the Defendant replied, indicating that Defendant had removed marks belonging to Plaintiff from its website. However, subsequently the Plaintiff found out that the Defendant had resumed delivering Plaintiff’s goods as well as featuring Plaintiff’s marks including the logo. Cease and Desist letters were again sent to the Defendant, demanding the latter to stop all unauthorized acts. However, there was no response. Hence, the present complaint was filed.

In the complaint, the Plaintiff raised an objection to the Defendant’s implication that the services and quality of the Defendant were of the same standard as that of the Plaintiff’s. The Plaintiff categorically denied that the quality and services of the Defendant was of the same calibre. Furthermore, the Plaintiff had no way to keep a check on time taken to deliver food products, the safety practices or the handling of the food.

As per the Plaintiff, the unauthorized use of the marks and logo by the Defendant created confusion in the minds of the consumers. Furthermore, the use of the marks and logo by the Defendant would likely cause dilution of Plaintiff’s marks; Defendant’s acts proved self-explanatory of their intent to profit from the goodwill and reputation of the Plaintiff. Thus, in an effort to protect itself, the Plaintiff sought a permanent injunction against the Defendant from making unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s mark as well as from unauthorized delivery of food procured from Plaintiff’s restaurant. Plaintiff also demanded a jury trial.

With this complaint, the ball is now in Defendant’s court, and it is to be seen what course of action will be taken by the latter.

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