PLANO, Texas — A long-time North Texas burger restaurant has been asked to remove words off its menu because of a possible trademark issue.
Janis McNeely of Country Burger has never been one to go quietly. She proudly says she's the outspoken person in the family. But when she received a random email in September of 2020 from someone claiming to be a trademark attorney for regional burger chain In-N-Out, she ignored it.
"I thought it was a joke. I honestly did, I thought it was a joke," said McNeely.
She eventually received another set of emails from trademark lawyers, essentially telling her to remove the words 'double-double' and 'triple-triple' from their Country Burger menus.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows filings in 1973, 2008, and 2012 by In-N-Out to claim the words. The year 1973 also happens to be the same year Country Burger started.
"They do not want the words 'double-double' on our menu at all. Personally, I don't think you should be able to trademark the word 'double-double,'" said McNeely.
In-N-Out said its trademark dates back to the 1960s. Its restaurants only came to Texas in 2011.
WFAA received the following statement from In-N-Out:
"In-N-Out Burger’s widespread use of the 'double-double' and 'triple-triple' trademarks date back to the early 1960s and our federal trademarks support our legal rights to request other businesses to not use these trademarks for the sale of burgers. When we become aware of other restaurants using these trademarks, we must consistently take action in order to protect our ability to prevent others from doing the same. We have been in communication with Country Burger and are actively seeking an amicable resolution and hope to stay on that course."
McNeely told WFAA that Country Burger's Double-Double is item number one on the menu, and it's their most popular item. The mega-burger chain is not asking them to remove the burgers from the menu, only to rename them.
McNeely said she understands what In-N-Out is trying to do in protecting its product with the trademark, but she feels it's still wrong.
"My biggest beef is the timing," she said.
The family is referring to the unexpected downturn in business during the pandemic when capacity restrictions limited their ability to operate.
Sam and Judy McNeely started Country Burger in 1973, and the family has been responsible for three Country Burger locations in Collin County: two in Plano and one in Murphy.
McNeely told WFAA that In-N-Out has offered to pay for reprinting of menus and signage.
In-N-Out said it wants an amicable solution with Country Burger and will continue to work for that.
Meanwhile, Country Burger is exploring all its options, including, renaming the burger to another appropriate name.
"I just don't want to roll over. I want them to put a face to what they're doing," said McNeely.