As Texas-based restaurant chain Whataburger gears up to expand into North Carolina, it's now suing a restaurant group of a similar name it claims violated a confidential agreement reached in 2022.

Whatabrands, the company behind the chain, filed suit against What-A-Burger #13 in North Carolina's Middle District federal court on Tuesday.

The 39-page lawsuit first claims the Texas chain's Whataburger trademark was created first in 1950, while the What-A-Burger #13 trademark was created in 1969. Whatabrands then claims the Whataburger branding is now distinct even in states beyond where its restaurants currently operate, giving it strong common law rights on the mark.

A confidential co-existence agreement was then signed between the two companies but now the Texas chain accused the North Carolina restaurants of forming a limited liability corporation behind its backs.

Whataburger is asking for a jury trial and, if a ruling in favor of it is issued, for the following to happen:

  • For What-A-Burger #13 to stop using its mark
  • For all signage using the What-A-Burger #13 mark to be destroyed
  • For the transfer of the What-A-Burger #13 website domain be transferred to Whataburger
  • Show proof that all of the above has been done
  • For What-A-Burger #13 to pay profits made off of its mark sent to Whataburger
  • Any financial relief the court finds appropriate

This Has Happened Before:

Whataburger also filed a similar lawsuit against a restaurant in Virginia using the name What-a-burger in 2003.

The suit, accessed through web archive, was brought up against What-A-Burger of Virginia, Inc. and What-A-Burger of Newport News, Inc. It was ruled that the companies were unaware of the other’s existence when they were founded, and the originals founders were dead by the time the suit was brought up in court.

The court ruled in 2004 that “no actionable damages had occurred” and “There is no evidence — nor can we imagine any — that consumers are currently likely to be confused about whether the burgers served by Virginia W-A-B come from Texas or Virginia.”

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