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Delivery Start-Up DoorDash Sued by In-N-Out for False Affiliation

Popular California-based burger chain In-N-Out filed a lawsuit against DoorDash, a restaurant food delivery start-up founded in 2013.1 Unlike other restaurant delivery services like GrubHub and Seamless, DoorDash has its own drivers and delivery service in exchange of an additional fee, ranging from $2 to $7 depending on location.2

In-N-Out alleged that DoorDash infringed its trademark by advertising using an imitation of its logo while not having any affiliation or the approval by the restaurant.3 In the complaint, In-N-Out claimed that the restaurant contacted DoorDash on April 14, 2014, requesting that DoorDash stop using its trademarks or listing In-N-Out on DoorDash’s website.4 After two more letters sent by In-N-Out to DoorDash on May 2, 2014 and October 3, 2014, DoorDash’s CEO and Co-Founder Tony Xu responded promising that In-N-Out will be removed from the DoorDash website.5 However, DoorDash continued to offer delivery of In-N-Out’s food as part of its services.6 In response, In-N-Out sent two more letters on July 10, 2015 and August 27, 2015, but DoorDash did not respond to the letters or discontinue the use of In-N-Out’s trademarks.7 DoorDash also failed to respond to a final letter by In-N-Out’s counsel sent on September 30, 2015.8

In-N-Out also alleged that advertisement by DoorDash confused consumers and created misconception that the “quality and service offered by [DoorDash will be] the same as if customers had made purchases directly from [In-N-Out].”9 According to In-N-Out, false affiliation with DoorDash is problematic because In-N-Out has no control over the delivery time, temperature, or food handling and safety practices of DoorDash.10 To make the matters worse, In-N-Out states in its complaint that although DoorDash purports to adhere by the Food Code, the delivery start-up’s practices do not comply with the required safety and handling standards.11 Because the core of this lawsuit lies in the issue of false affiliation, In-N-Out would not need to prove actual confusion created by DoorDash’s use of its trademark, but In-N-Out would only need to prove a likelihood of confusion12

Vic Lin, a patent attorney and founder of, noted that this lawsuit could have significant implications for the delivery industry.13 According to Lin, if this suit establishes that DoorDash’s use of In-N-Out logo created false affiliation with the restaurant, it could mean that “a false connection with the brand or retailer [is] automatically created by virtue of the delivery service offering those branded products,” which could have ramifications for the food delivery industry as well as for other delivery service industries.14

  1. Complaint at 1, In-N-Out Burgers v. DoorDash, No. 8:15-cv-1826 (C. D. Cal. Nov. 6, 2015). 

  2. Stein, Perry, Uber of Food? App’s ‘Dashers’ Deliver for a $7 Fee, The Washington Post (Mar. 31, 2015), . 

  3. Complaint, supra note 1, at 9; Bhattacharya, Ananya, In-N-Out Sues Delivery Service DoorDash, CNNMoney (Nov. 12, 2015), . 

  4. Complaint, supra note 1, at 10; Bhattacharya, supra note 4. 

  5. Complaint, supra note 1, at 10. 

  6. Id

  7. Id

  8. Id

  9. Complaint, supra note 1, at 10; Bhattacharya, supra note 4. 

  10. Complaint, supra note 1, at 10. 

  11. Id

  12. Lin, Vic, Is It So Wrong That DoorDash Delivers a Delicious Double Double to My Front Door?, Entrepreneur (Jan. 15, 2016), . 

  13. Lin, supra note 12. 

  14. Lin, supra note 12.