Burgers and Fries with a Side of a Trademark Lawsuit

In-N-Out, the popular California burger chain, sued Puma for trademark infringement. Why would a sports apparel retailer initiate an IP battle against a fast food chain?

Puma collaborated with streetwear designer Mike Cherman and released sneakers branded ‘Cali-0 Drive Thru’ and ‘California Drive Thru’. The sneakers were simple white leather low-tops with a red trim on the bottom and laces with a palm tree pattern. Puma’s promotional videos on Instagram were set in burger diners, paying homage to the ‘Cali lifestyle’. Websites and publications began calling the sneaker the ‘Puma X In-N-Out Collab’, despite no official statement from In-N-Out.

In-N-Out initiated a trademark infringement lawsuit over the sneakers. The fast food retailer claimed the marks used, namely the palm trees on the laces, are ‘essentially identical’ to its federally registered tree symbol, U.S. Trademark Registration No. 1935301 and No. 1514036. These marks are often displayed on In-N-Out cups and apparel.

In-N-Out claimed that Puma “deliberately intended to trade off the popular and positive goodwill associated with In-N-Out and its trademarks and trade dress by displaying features on the [sneakers] nearly identical to or including the same elements as In-N-Out’s trademarks and trade dress.” The fast food chain cited several instances resulting of consumer confusion as numerous publications thought Puma and In-N-Out were officially collaborating.

In-N-Out demanded Puma cease production of the shoes and asked to be awarded any profits related to the sale of the shoes. However, In-N-Out dropped the suit after an apparent settlement.

A year later, In-N-Out released their own shoes with their palm tree pattern to add to their collection of apparel they sell. These canvas shoes give the illusion that the customer is wearing a pair of the restaurant’s cups on their feet, and sold out the day of their release.

This saga demonstrates the multi-sector value a brand can have. In-N-Out is not the only food chain to release apparel. Popeyes’s official store sells replicas of their uniform which have been popular Halloween costumes for customers. Oreo has released an entire loungewear line complete with Oreo and milk themed onesies, pyjamas and sweaters.

In-N-Out may be known for their burgers and shakes, but their customers want to demonstrate their brand loyalty through more than just an Instagram picture. Apparel is a great way to do this!