American burger giant In-N-Out Burger Inc has taken Sydney’s Hashtag Burgers to Federal Court claiming a case of stolen identity. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the California-based burger chain – world famous for its “animal-style” burgers and fries – launched proceedings late last year against the local competitor, arguing Hashtag’s Down N’ Out restaurants infringed its trademark and mislead customers by mimicking its name, logo and menu items.

Coogee-based Hashtag Burgers, which is responsible for bringing us Burgerpalooza, operates two Down N’ Out stores, one in the Sir John Young Hotel in the CBD and another in Sydney’s western suburb of Ryde. Owned by Ben Kagen and Archie Saliba, its known for creating wild and at times ridiculous burgers (last year they invented a Pokémon-style option).

According to the SMH, In-N-Out has also accused Hashtag Burgers of engaging in “passing off”, when one business attempts to advertise its product to be similar or the same as another business’s without “endorsement, approval, licence, authority or sponsorship.” In-N-Out wants the Federal Court to order Hashtag Burgers to give up the Down N’ Out brand and hand over any profits made while trading under the name.

Court documents seen by SMH state the In-N-Out name was trademarked and registered in 1948 and say Hashtag Burgers has tried to “mimic” its business model by offering a similar “secret” menu.

Hashtag Burgers has reportedly denied the allegations, arguing it does not require a license to use the Down N’ Out name given In-N-Out “does not conduct its fast-food business in Australia and therefore has no goodwill in Australia” to protect.

In-N-Out has hosted short-term activations in Australia (Perth, Sydney and Melbourne), all of which have been swarmed by local burger fans.

STAY IN THE KNOW
Get our pick of the best news, features and events delivered twice a week

The SMH reports In-N-Out has until July 1 to file its evidence and Hashtag Burgers has until July 27 to respond, so a verdict is a while off yet.

Broadsheet contacted Hashtag Burgers but they declined to comment.