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November 21, 2011

Chick fil-A Files to Block 'Eat More Kale' From Becoming Federal Trademark

EmkbigEleven years ago, a farmer friend asked Montpelier folk artist Bo Muller-Moore to make a T-shirt for him that read "Eat More Kale." So, Muller-Moore went home, traced his fingers to make cutouts of the letters and printed the T-shirt, which he sold for $10. The logo took off, and a business was born.

Six years later, the legal department of Atlanta-based fast food giant Chick fil-A sent Muller-Moore a cease-and-desist order requesting "that I shut down my website and send them my inventory," says Muller-Moore. "They said I was confusing their customers and affecting their profits." Specifically, Chick fil-A was concerned with how conflicted with their marketing slogan and website,

Through a lawyer, Muller-Moore informed the company that he intended to continue, and took their ensuing silence to mean they were backing down. He kept making T-shirts and bumper stickers, his website stayed up, and business grew. This August, he decided to seek a federal trademark for "Eat More Kale." And in September, he experienced some déjà vu: Chick fil-A sent Muller-Moore another cease and desist letter, and also demanded that he withdraw his application for a federal trademark.

Chick fil-A has more than 1,560 locations nationwide and 2010 sales of $3.58 billion. As its website notes, the company sells 537 Chick fil-A sandwiches per minute, and its longstanding policy of closing every restaurant on Sunday is a testament to founder Truett Cathy's "faith in God."

By contrast, sells markedly fewer t-shirts per year, though Muller-Moore shies from discussing numbers. He has given away 40,000 to 60,000 "Eat More Kale" stickers, and now sells them for donations via his website. 

Muller-Moore is no stranger to copyright infringement. Over the years, he has encountered nine people trying to co-opt his folksy logo. So, seeking a federal trademark seemed an important step to take. "I needed a sharper sword than common law trademark," he says.

Understandably, Muller-Moore is puzzled that Chick fil-A sees his T-shirt business as a threat to their corporation. "This is legitimate David-versus-Goliath corporate bullying," says Muller-Moore. "I'm not a restaurant. I'm not a kale farmer. I'm a T-shirt artist." Muller-Moore says he has never made enough money on the emblem to support himself, though he is hopeful he might do so one day.

Muller-Moore's lawyer, Dan Richardson of Montpelier, notes that Chick fil-A has consistently tried to shut down businesses using a similar moniker. "What they're trying to do is own the marketplace. They've aggressively gone after anyone who has used the phrase 'eat more anything,'" says Richardson. He notes the case has whiffs of Monster Energy Drink's efforts to block Rock Art Brewery's Vermonster beer in 2009.

On Saturday, an acquaintance of Muller-Moore's set up a petition online to support Eat More Kale. By Monday, it had registered more than 600 signatures. 

Calls to Chick fil-A's legal and corporate departments were not answered by press time. 

This article has been corrected to reflect the correct nature of Chick fil-A's letter to Muller-Moore.

how about Eat More Shit Chick-fil-A

David vs. Goliath. The kale people will not win, or they'll win but will be bled dry by legal fees. Corporations win battles like this they have rooms full of lawyers and endless cash to keep the fight going. Sad but true.

time to occupy chick-fil-a?

the standard is -- would this action cause consumer confusion

and I'm pretty sure NO ONE would confuse these two places.

This reminds me of a situation in California years ago. A woman volunteered to teach yoga at prisons, and she called her very not-for-profit endeavour "Yoga Inside." She was sued by a bigger company that had trademarked a name about "inside beauty with yoga" or something like that. I don't know how it ended.

Thanks for publishing this article. Shame on Chick-Fil-A. I read they also went after Eat More Produce, a farm vegetable stand in Orlando. In this day of escalating obesity, fast-food muscle goes up against super-healthy vegetables? How ridiculous is this picture?

Some the facts in this story appear to be incorrect. Mr. Muller-Moore filed his trademark registration application on August 31, 2011 and the application has not yet been assigned to a Trademark Examining Attorney. Thus it is too early for Chick Fil-A to have filed anything (either a Letter of Protest or an Opposition) at the PTO relating to this application. As (another) Lawyer stated above, the standard is "would consumers be confused" -- into thinking that Mr. Muller-Moore's goods emanate from or are sponsored or endorsed by Chick Fil-A. If not, then there is no infringement. I think not, but it is not for me to decide.

I would not give that fast food chain a single penny of my business under any circumstances. I would rather eat dirt then add one cent to their bottom line.

I'm always confusing chicken with kale. Doesn't everyone have this problem?

Here is some information about Chick Fil A. They are an ignorant, nasty corporation and should be the target of a boycott.

I am actually wearing my EAT MORE KALE shirt as I read this! Geez- do they really think that anyone interested in eating more kale is even going to consider eating more chik-fla?

I am so tired of Vermonters and their anti-meat agenda. Listen, you can't survive on weeds and twigs alone.

If God didn't want us to eat cows and chickens he wouldn't have made them so tasty and delicious. Instead, he would've made them taste all bitter and disgusting like kale.

Maybe I'm biased, because I know Bo personally and I do love kale, but I honestly don't think this has anything to do with an anti-meat agenda. Plenty of Vermonters eat meat, and I am one of them. This is really about the battle between large corporations and the majority of Americans who are just trying to make ends meet. Given the current state of affairs in this country, we need to pay attention to cases like this, now more than ever. This is not the time to quibble over minor editorial details or agendas. This is the time to rally and stand up for ourselves and speak out against corporate greed and injustice. Bo, I say, go get em, (AU) Tiger!

Don't bother arguing with Fiske. After reading his response to the post about the Intervale, I can't tell whether he really believes what he writes or is just stirring the pot.

An instance of a large company overreaching on an intellectual property issue is hardly "really about the battle between large corporations and the majority of Americans who are just trying to make ends meet." Nor is it fair to generalize from this one instance about "corporate greed and injustice."

Engage in exaggerated rhetoric much?

How about "Eat More Chickale" oooh, I like it, think i'll go online and order me a chickale sandwich, bumper sticker and t-shirt.

Dead Chicken Meat ’n’ Kale

Was curious ‘bout this thing
called a “yard-bird” snack,
So, I hauled myself down to
some fowl-death shack
and asked about
a chicky-chick sand-a-wich.

The counter dog sez:
“Their cackle on a bun is boss,
But we won’t serve no
cabbage in sauce.
For that, you have to see
the Colonel or
go to Montpelier.”


He adds: “there’s a man up there
selling printed underwear,
He’s sorta pale and pushin’
a cabbage called kale—
And he’s flat-out a-ruinin’ the
dead-chicken-meat reputation.”

I can’t figure how a dude with
a simple squeegee–press
puts a charred flesh-peddler
In any distress (?)
After all, a pro-veggie T-shirt’s
just a shirt,
But hawkin’ burnt chicken parts
can’t get any more disgusting.

Lefty Farkleberry
from: “Wrasslin’ Bear Cubs…..III
Copyright 2k11
Canyon Wren Press

This is insane! "Eat more" is a common phrase in the English language. Eat more veggies, eat more fruit, eat more fish, eat more _ _ _ _ (fill in the blank) whatever. How dare a greedy corporation to try and restrict the First Amendment rights of all Americans through the trademarking/copyrighting of a common phrase. It's not like this guy is silk-screening his shirts with the phrase "eat more chicken" which would be very similar to Chick-fil-A's "eat mor chikin."

I'm sick and tired of corporate greed and bullying. This attempt to diminish our First Amendment rights is wayyyyyy over the top.


I'm sick and tired of people saying "I'm sick and tired of corporate greed and bullying."

I am perplexed by the love that so many natural-born humans express for corporations.

One could ask the same question in reverse. Given that the vast majority of american corporations are law abiding, small, mom-and-pop businesses, one could just as easily say, I'm perplexed by the hatred that so many natural-born humans express for corporations.

Question your beliefs.

Yeah, this is an example of one company badly overreaching. We get that. But to extrapolate from that that "all corporations are greedy bullies" is totally and completely irrational.

But that's the Vermont way, of course.

Do you have a source for your claim that "the vast majority of american corporations are law abiding, small, mom-and-pop businesses?" I checked the Census Bureau, but they don't distinguish between corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietorship businesses.

More than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer.

I know this isn't an Occupy Wall Street thread but I'd love to know how much of the country's collective corporate profits those small businesses control. Guessing it's a lot less than 96%.

And, Chick fil-A is hardly the only corporation that's tried something this stupid. You might remember Monster Energy filing a cease-and-desist over Rock Art Brewery's Vermonster beer? Or the utterly insane patent wars that all the big tech firms are a part of now? Nope, the mom and pop businesses aren't greedy bullies. But the problems here are big corporations and their overzealous lawyers who have tons of legal and financial clout to throw around. The corporations want to stifle competition, the lawyers want to chase down a quick, easy, sizable check. This case is probably mostly the latter.

I personally "grow" more kale. About 12 plants this year.

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