Who: In-N-Out Burger and DoorDash
Where: California, USA
When: 6 November 2015
Law stated as at: 15 December 2015
Popular Californian fast food chain In-N-Out Burger – home of the ‘Double-Double’ – has launched proceedings against food delivery start-up DoorDash for alleged trade-mark infringement and unfair competition. In-N-Out Burger is seeking a permanent injunction from the court to prevent DoorDash from using its logo and delivering its food to customers.
The claim stems back to April 2014, when In-N-Out noticed that the DoorDash website was displaying its trade-marked logo in order to promote the DoorDash food delivery service. In-N-Out had no form of commercial relationship with DoorDash, so contacted the delivery company to complain.
The delivery company initially obliged by taking down the logo and stopping all orders from In-N-Out. However, by July 2015 it appears that deliveries had started up again. Furthermore, it seems that DoorDash had by this time uploaded an imitation In-N-Out logo to its website, which was being displayed alongside the logos and menus of a number of other restaurant chains.
Having made numerous further attempts to contact DoorDash from July to September 2015, in order to demand that DoorDash immediately cease all offending deliveries, the current proceedings were issued by In-N-Out in the Californian District Court on 6 November 2015.
The principal complaints made by In-N-Out Burger are that:
- The use of its famous trade-mark to advertise DoorDash delivery services implies some degree of commercial affiliation between the two companies, where no such affiliation exists. Customers might consequently assume that In-N-Out is responsible for the DoorDash service.
- In relation to the above, there is a concern on the part of In-N-Out that its customers might be led to believe the food quality and service provided by DoorDash will be comparable to that which they could expect had they ordered directly from In-N-Out. The burger chain points out in its court filing that it has no control over the length of delivery time, the temperature at which goods will be kept and the food handling and safety procedures of delivery drivers.
Why this matters:
Third-party food delivery companies have become increasingly popular and prominent in the UK during the past year (e.g. Deliveroo). As this case illustrates, these businesses will need to ensure that they install a proper commercial arrangement with their restaurant suppliers, spelling out how they may use brand names, logos or other materials (such as menu descriptions and pricing information) prior to commencing any such delivery service. Delivery companies should also take care that they make clear their independence from the restaurants and other food brands they deal with.
By way of further illustration, earlier in 2015 DoorDash found itself in trouble again. This time with a number of New York restaurants who accused DoorDash of inflating menu prices (i.e. adding a large premium on to any food order delivered via its drivers), as well as using the relevant restaurants’ names, logos and menus without proper permission.