An Aberdeen hamburger joint will change its red-white-and-yellow logo under a tentative settlement with In-N-Out Burger, the West Coast restaurant chain that was suing it for trademark infringement in federal court in Baltimore.
In-N-Out claimed that customers visiting Grab-N-Go Burgers, located in an Aberdeen strip mall, could be confused or misled to believe it is related to or endorsed in some way by In-N-Out. The Irvine, Calif.-based company — whose closest location is in Texas — sought a permanent injunction and unspecified damages in the suit filed last year in U.S. District Court.
The settlement is contingent on In-N-Out’s approval of Grab-N-Go’s still-to-be-issued new logo, as well as the execution of a written agreement, Judge Richard D. Bennett wrote in dismissing the suit on Jan. 4.
In-N-Out can move to reopen the case if the settlement agreement has not been finalized within 45 days; otherwise, the dismissal will become final at that time, Bennett wrote.
“The parties have reached an amicable resolution and beyond that, we have no further comment,” Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out’s vice president and general counsel, wrote in an email message.
Joshua A. Glikin, who represented In-N-Out in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the pending settlement agreement beyond saying it will contain a confidentiality clause. Glikin is with Bowie & Jensen LLC in Towson.
Grab-N-Go’s attorney, Edward A. Pennington, did not return telephone messages seeking comment. He is with Murphy & King P.C. in Washington, D.C.
His clients, Grab-N-Go owners Nick and Foula Hapsis, did not return calls left at their restaurant.
The father-daughter team opened Grab-N-Go in October 2010.
In-N-Out filed suit 10 months later, claiming the newcomer was “clearly modeled” after it.
Grab-N-Go’s name, “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,” according to the complaint filed Aug. 17. “The words Grab-N-Go are depicted in red block letters in a type face identical to that used in In-N-Out’s trademarked logo.”
In-N-Out also alleged that Grab-N-Go’s “Wild Style Burger,” featuring two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onions and “wild” sauce, hewed a little too close to its “Animal Style” burger.
Grab-N-Go denied the allegations in its answer to the complaint, filed Sept. 29.
It also raised, as defenses, that its conduct was not likely to lead to consumer confusion and that In-N-Out has suffered no economic damages.
In-N-Out is a closely held company run by the Snyder family, which started the business in 1948. The company runs more than 240 locations, most of them in California, with some in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Texas.
Sales for In-N-Out, which does not franchise, have been estimated at more than $400 million a year. Despite not having a physical location in Maryland, In-N-Out said in court filings it operates here through its Internet store presence.