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Published on June 15, 2024
North Carolina's What-A-Burger Faces Trademark Suit from Texas Giant Whataburger Amid Expansion ConcernsSource: Google Street View

The landscape of fast food trademark disputes is heating up in the Carolinas, where the Texas-based burger chain Whataburger has filed a lawsuit against a group of North Carolina restaurants operating under the name What-a-burger. Whataburger alleges that the name similarity constitutes trademark infringement, a claim that places North Carolina's similarly named establishments in a precarious legal situation, according to reports from Queen City News.

The legal action initiated by Whataburger puts forward that the local chain's use of their What-A-Burger #13 Mark, is infringing upon Whataburger’s trademark rights which span back to 1957. Despite earlier efforts to coexist, as reported by FOX59, tension has escalated following Whataburger's expansion moves into North Carolina. According to the lawsuit, a coexistence agreement that was effective as of May 19, 2023, was put in place to minimize brand confusion, but it appears the agreement has not resolved all issues.

Adding to the complexity of this issue, Whataburger's complaint includes federal trademark infringement, federal and common law unfair competition, breach of contract, and unfair and deceptive trade practices, as detailed by The Dallas Express. A central argument in Whataburger’s filing is the establishment of its trademark in 1950, well before What-A-Burger No. 13's mark, which records show was established in 1969.

The case has put the spotlight on North Carolina's What-A-Burger, with two establishments, one in Mount Pleasant and the other in the Locust area of Stanly County. These restaurants, both rooted in longstanding local tradition, now face the challenge of defending their branding against the nationwide chain, Whataburger. "Local news outlets in North Carolina began speculating as early as 2022 about Whataburger’s potential expansion into the state," the lawsuit stated, indicating the Texas chain's clear intent to protect and expand its brand identity within the market, according to FOX59.