When Puma dropped its “California-inspired” sneaker line, fast-food fans immediately recognized In-N-Out’s iconic red-and-yellow color scheme and palm tree imagery on two pairs of so-called “Cali Drive-Thru” sneakers. Puma didn’t explicitly state these were In-N-Out sneakers, but plenty of retailers did, even mistakenly labeling them a collaboration between the two brands. In fact, In-N-Out had nothing to do with the sneakers, which were in fact a collaboration between Puma and designer Mike Cherman. It didn’t take long for people to raise the question: Would In-N-Out sue?
Now we have our answer: It sure did. NBC4 San Diego reports the fast-food chain filed a trademark-infringement suit Friday, alleging Puma used its trade marks and trade dress (recognizable visual characteristics) without permission. In-N-Out lawsuit alleges that not only are its palm tree designs federally protected, but Puma marketed the sneaker in conjunction with drive-thrus, burgers, and other fast-food imagery to deliberately associate the product with In-N-Out.
In-N-Out seeks an end to the sale and marketing of the two Cali Drive-Thru sneaker models, profits from prior sales of the sneakers, and unspecified damages.
“By using In-N-Out’s designs and trade dress, Puma and Cherman intentionally confused consumers for their own benefit and have also created the impression that our marks and unique trade dress are available for public use,” an In-N-Out executive told NBC4.
Puma should have seen this coming. In-N-Out is notoriously litigious, suing a small Australian burger company called Down N’ Out last year, and filing a lawsuit against Smashburger over its Triple Double burger the year prior. No way was the company going to let red-and-yellow sneakers with palm-tree laces slide.