Whenever companies and brands begin behaving badly when it comes to enforcing their trademarks, one common reaction from outsiders is "why?" The reason for that singular question can vary, whether it stems from a lack of true infringement taking place to the seemingly harmless nature of use in dispute to everywhere in between. But perhaps there is no better example of a trademark dispute inducing a "Why?" than in the news that In-N-Out is suing an Australian burger company without doing any real or regular business on that entire continent.
Californian burger chain In-N-Out has no presence in Australia. Or anywhere much further than the U.S. west coast and Texas, really.
That hasn't stopped In-N-Out from suing Sydney-based restaurant Down N' Out, which opened in 2016 and served burgers that were a tribute to the cult chain. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, In-N-Out claimed the Australian restaurant infringes on its trademark and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by using the Down N' Out name and logo.
Ok, let's highlight this just so nobody can accuse us of being unclear on the point: Down N' Out is clearly referencing and paying homage to In-N-Out, the famous California burger chain. In-N-Out also claims that all of this amounts to Down N' Out trying to pass itself off as being related to the California company. Even if the latter were true, which I doubt is the case, the fact remains that In-N-Out has barely done any business on the entire Australian continent. Despite this, the chain argues that it has "substantial goodwill" in Australia. How that would be, other than by reputation in the media, is anyone's guess.
Despite that, In-N-Out is demanding the Australian company change its name and hand over a bunch of money.
Legal proceedings were launched in Australia's Federal Court in October last year, and In-N-Out has until June to submit evidence to support its claims. In-N-Out wants Down N' Out to stop using the brand, and to pay damages or hand over profits made while using the name.
Again, why? This is dumb, and it's a terrible use of legal funds to wage trademark war on a country in which In-N-Out has no storefront. There's no threat here, because the company isn't operating in that market. All we are left with is our singular question: why?