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In-N-Out Burger has a beef with Grab-N-Go

West Coast burger chain In-N-Out Burger has filed a federal lawsuit against an Aberdeen restaurant whose red, white and yellow logo and pared-down menu of hamburgers and hot dogs are allegedly too similar to its own.

The Irvine, Calif.-based company — whose closest location is in Texas — filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Grab-N-Go this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore seeking a permanent injunction and unspecified damages. In-N-Out claims that customers visiting the Grab-N-Go, located in a strip mall in Aberdeen, could be confused or misled to believe it is related to or endorsed in some way by In-N-Out.

“The restaurant is clearly modeled after In-N-Out’s restaurants,” In-N-Out’s attorney wrote in the complaint filed Wednesday. “The name of the restaurant, particularly the use of ‘N’ as short for the word ‘and,’ the menu selection, the red, yellow, and white color scheme, and the interior design, including white tile walls with a red stripe, all mirror design elements of In-N-Out restaurants.”

And, In-N-Out alleges, Grab-N-Go’s “Wild Style Burger” offering, featuring two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions and “wild” sauce hews a little too close to its own proprietary “Animal Style” burger.

Grab-N-Go is owned by Nick Hapsis and his daughter Faula, and was opened in October 2010. Nick Hapsis, who also owns the Olive Tree Restaurant in the same shopping center, did not return calls for comment. An employee at Grab-N-Go said Faula Hapsis was out of the country and could not be reached.

In-N-Out’s attorney, Joshua A. Glikin at Bowie & Jensen LLC in Towson, also did not respond to a call for comment Thursday afternoon.

In-N-Out is a closely held company run by the same family that started the business in 1948. The company runs more than 240 locations, mainly in California but also in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Texas.

Sales for the burger chain, which does not franchise, have been estimated at more than $400 million a year. Despite not having a physical location in the state, In-N-Out said in court filings it operates in Maryland through its Internet store presence.

According to an online search of federal court records, this is the third trademark infringement lawsuit filed by In-N-Out so far this year, both in California. It sued food giant ConAgra Inc., which owns the Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice brands, for infringing on its trademarked “Quality You Can Taste” phrase on bottles of ketchup. The parties settled the case on Aug. 2, but did not release the terms.

In-N-Out also sued a California emissions-checking facility that called itself In-N-Out Smog. That case also settled and the details were not released, but it did include a permanent injunction barring In-N-Out Smog from operating under that name.