Chinese Double-Double in trademark trouble

In-N-Out is a California-based hamburger chain popular for its hamburgers and fries. Recently, the restaurant chain noticed that a restaurant in China was promoting trademarked “Double-Double” burgers and “Animal” fries, two of In-N-Out’s menu options. In-N-Out is strictly a regional operation with 250 stores in five states. The two restaurants were able to settle out of court.

The privately-owned In-N-Out chain filed a trademark infringement and counterfeiting lawsuit against the company that owns CaliBurger in China. Hopes of succeeding in an intellectual property legal challenge seemed dim with a competitor so far out of reach, but In-N-Out had a stroke of luck. The owners of Shanghai’s CaliBurger live in California and are American citizens.

The owners of In-N-Out might have never known about CaliBurger without the Internet. Photos of signs promoting the “Double-Double” burger and “Animal Fries” were hung over the site where the Chinese restaurant was under construction. Those pictures quickly found their way to In-N-Out.

The restaurants’ owners came to a settlement that put a bit more distance between the food products and d├ęcor at In-N-Out and the menu and style at CaliBurger. Apparently, the Chinese restaurant trademarked its own double-patty burger called the Cali Double. Fries will now be served “Wild Style.”

The dispute is not the first court action taken by In-N-Out. The owners sued a Maryland knock-off called Grab-N-Go to force the company to change its too-similar logo.

Now that it appears to have settled its dispute with CaliBurger, In-N-Out is exploring international expansion. The private company launched a few taste-testing events in foreign cities, including Sydney, Australia, and Shanghai, China.

Source:, “Latest intellectual property clash in China? It’s the hamburger,” Feb. 20, 2012