Last February, Puma released a red-and-yellow accented sneaker that it called the “Cali-0 Drive Thru.” As would-be hypebeasts scrolled through their Insta-feeds, they immediately started to connect the limited edition kicks with a particular California burger chain, which seems to be exactly what Puma wanted.
It teased the shoe’s release with several restaurant-themed Instagram videos, called out California’s “burger diners” in the product description, and printed tiny red palm trees on its shoelaces. After all that, Puma probably shouldn’t have been surprised when websites started describing the shoes as a “Puma X In-N-Out” collab—or when In-N-Out Burger filed a trademark infringement lawsuit over the sneakers.
“By using In-N-Out’s designs and trade dress, Puma and [shoe designer Mike] 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,” In-N-Out’s executive VP Arnie Wensinger said at the time.
A year later, In-N-Out seems to have figured out that there might be a market for its own branded shoes, so it’s released a slip-on that makes it look like you’ve shoved your feet into two of its cups. The $64.95 red-and-white canvas kicks, cleverly called the “Drink Cup Shoes,” feature that unmistakable wavy ocean-and-palm-tree pattern, and they also have a rubber In-N-Out logo on the heel.
“They’ll go a lot farther than a box of chocolates. Available in his, hers and youth,” In-N-Out wrote on Instagram. The shoes are the latest addition to its cup-inspired product line, which also includes socks, baby onesies, aprons, air fresheners, and dog t-shirts.
According to Law360, In-N-Out dropped its trademark lawsuit against Puma last June after an “apparent settlement.” And not to point out the obvious here, but maaaaybe In-N-Out should’ve found a way to collaborate with Puma instead, because those Cali-0 Drive Thru sneakers slapped so much harder than the chain’s own slip-ons.
But filing lawsuits for trademark infringement seems to be as much a part of In-N-Out’s identity as the palm trees that it prints on everything. In 2018, its attorneys wasted zero time before contacting a San Francisco brewery that had planned to release a beer called In-N-Stout. “This was the fastest we’d ever got a cease and desist from somebody,” Seven Stills co-owner Tim Obert said at the time. “They sent us that C&D basically the next day.” (Seven Stills ultimately scrapped its can design, but did offer a free In-N-Out burger to the first 100 people who bought the beer.)
Earlier that year, it sued an Australian burger brand called Down N’ Out over its name and its “Tiger Style” burger.
For any prospective sneaker designers, breweries, or restaurant owners, In-N-Out’s terms and conditions page lists more than three dozen of the trademarks that it owns, including the “Palm Tree and Ocean Design” printed on its cups, its arrow logo, and the phrase “CLEANLINESS YOU CAN SEE.”
Just keep all that in mind, unless you want to see one of those trademarks on a letter from an attorney’s office.