The Real Reason In-N-Out Is Suing A Michigan Burger Chain

In-N-Out has been on both sides of a number of lawsuits during 2021. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the fast food chain filed a lawsuit against the Australian burger restaurant In & Out Aussie Burgers over the use of the restaurant name and for causing confusion on a variety of delivery apps. Around the same time, In-N-Out also faced a lawsuit from a former butcher who said he received an unfair amount of discipline for taking approved time off work and that the company acted against employees who wanted more protective measures against COVID-19, per HR Drive. In-N-Out denied the butcher's claims as "baseless and false." 

But the restaurant known for its nearly addictive burgers still hasn't had its fill of 2021 courtroom appearances, and has now launched cases against Doll n' Burger, a Michigan burger restaurant with only two locations, per Daily Telegram. In-N-Out took offense to, among other things, the restaurant's use of red and white in its design and employees' uniforms, while also claiming the use of the letter N in the middle of the restaurant's name takes inspiration from In-N-Out.

Doll n' Burger refuted these claims, saying restaurants like McDonald's or Five Guys also use red and white color schemes, and that while one of the Doll n' Burger's restaurants uses red and white, the other location simply operates in a red brick building. While those arguments sound logical, if In-N-Out's litigation history is any indicator, Doll n' Burger is in for a tough legal battle. 

In-N-Out has a strong legal track record

Both businesses have brought in branding experts to determine if customers could confuse the restaurants for each other (via Daily Telegram). The expert affiliated with Doll n' Burger came to a conclusion that no one would think a Doll n' Burger is actually an In-N-Out, but In-N-Out's expert claimed a 49.3% chance of probability. If the California fast food chain ends up winning the suit, it wants compensation for damages, in addition to the destruction of all red and white Doll n' Burger materials. Some might also point out that the name Doll n' Burger might seem derivative. The Michigan restaurant's founders, Justin Dalenburger and Ken Heers, admitted to having eaten at an In-N-Out before, but said they named their restaurant after the pronunciation of Dalenburger's last name.

While many restaurants might feel nervous taking on In-N-Out, the publicity that comes with the lawsuit can only help certain businesses. According to Inc., In-N-Out sued the Australian burger chain Down N' Out, but the Australian restaurant celebrated the case, as it gave the chain better publicity. This particular situation didn't work out well — Down N' Out changed its name to Nameless Bar after losing the years-long case, per The Sydney Morning Herald.

As for Doll n' Burger, you can probably expect people to start talking about as a result of the lawsuit, and with any luck, the tiny Michigan chain will fare better than those who went up against In-N-Out in the past.