from the more-out-than-in dept

We’ve spent a good deal of time talking about burger chain In-N-Out’s habit for engaging in trademark tourism all over the globe. If you’re not familiar with how this works, the company will apply for a trademark in various countries, all of which typically have use requirements in order to maintain the mark, and then host a pop-up shop every few years in order to satisfy that requirement. At no point has In-N-Out ever had any real presence outside of the United States, and yet they hold trademarks in countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It is, to use the legal phrase, absolute bullshit.

But it seems that not everyone in the media is following the plot. Another country where In-N-Out has been engaging in this sort of trademark tourism has been in South Korea, where it has never had a permanent presence, but has held a trademark since 2012. Local reporting has been quite excited about the prospects of getting a permanent presence in the country after company executives visited South Korea recently.

According to industry sources on Wednesday, the management team of In-N-Out Burger recently arrived in Korea to make a bid to enter the domestic market. After holding a pop-up outlet in Korea on May 31, they met with Lotte Department Store officials to discuss its Korean business. It is reported that the company has proposed terms such as the amount of money for the business in Korea.

This is the fourth time In-N-Out has opened a pop-up restaurant in Korea, after 2012, 2015 and 2019, and there have been talks in the restaurant industry that it is preparing to enter Korea. Korean retailers such as Lotte Department Store have reportedly approached In-N-Out about bringing the brand to Korea.

Now, I obviously cannot say for certain that this is simply more of the same trick from In-N-Out, meaning they have no intention of entering this market and are, instead, playing make believe in a weird bid to maintain its precious trademarks… but I’d certainly bet on that. Maybe there are market force reasons making South Korea different than the much easier prospect of opening its first international location in Canada, but I can’t for the life of me think of what that would be.

And the company’s actions in South Korea are identical to those in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The company gets its trademark and then operates pop-up locations once every couple of years, without ever making any serious effort to get permanent access to the market.

However, given the recent growth of the Korean restaurant market and the demanding tastes of Korean consumers, it is speculated that the company is considering Korea as a testbed for its global expansion.

We’ll see. You would think the company would go after the entire eastern half of the United States first, no?

Filed Under: pop up restaurants, south korea, trademark, trademark tousim

Companies: in-n-out