The operator of a popular chain of quick service restaurants on the West Coast, In-N-Out Burger, recently sued startup Doordash alleging trademark infringement and false association. According to the complaint, the Doordash app offers consumers the ability to order a variety of food items from various restaurants to be delivered in about an hour. Once a consumer opens the app, a selection of available restaurants is offered, along with the restaurant’s trademark and logo. In-N-Out Burger claims that Doordash is using its trademark and logo without permission.
Although Doordash removed In-N-Out Burger from its list of available restaurants at In-N-Out Burger’s request, In-N-Out Burger alleges that Doordash subsequently allowed consumers to order from the restaurant once again. In-N-Out Burger alleges that it followed up with several letters between July and September 2015, all of which were ignored. In-N-Out Burger is seeking an injunction to stop Doordash from offering consumers the ability to order food from its restaurants using the app, as well as from using its trademarks and logos within the app.
TIP: Startups offering on-demand services, often in connection with goods and services of unaffiliated third parties, may risk legal disputes with these third parties. Such disputes will likely turn on the application of the fair use defense to claims of trademark infringement and whether the services offered create a false association between the two companies.