A silkscreen design artist from Vermont is being warned by national fast-food chain Chick-fil-A to stop selling his bestselling t-shirt that simply states “Eat More Kale,” citing the phrase muddles the company’s famous “Eat Mor Chickin” cow campaign.
Bo Muller-Moore, who is also described as a folk artist, told The Christian Post that when he came up with the phrase and began printing the individually made t-shirts in his Montpelier studio 10 years ago, he had never heard of Chick-fil-A's ad slogan.
“The closest one is 120 miles away,” Muller-Moore said. “I don’t know this for sure, but when I started in 2000, I’m sure Chick-fil-A had a whole lot fewer franchises and I’m sure they were much more a deep South regional thing.”
Kale, a leafy vegetable known for its nutritional value, is a popular crop among farmers in Vermont. Muller-Moore’s first order of the shirts was from a local farmer whose crop included kale.
“It became popular enough that I started handing out round green bumper stickers (with the phrase) as my business card,” he said. He now passes out tens of thousands of the stickers, instead of business cards, in an effort to promote his t-shirt selling website, EatMoreKale.com.
A lawyer for the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A stated in a letter that Muller-Moore’s promotion of his “eat more kale message” "is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminishes its value," reported The Associated Press.
Chick-fil-A had sent Muller-Moore a letter five years ago warning him of trademark infringement, but did not act on the warning again until only recently by sending another letter, he said. The cease and desist letter, which included a request to withdraw the trademark registration, was received on Nov. 17.
Chick-fil-A’s ad campaign includes cows trying to change the country’s “burger-eating landscape.”
“These fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest, realized that when people eat chicken, they don't eat them,” Chick-fil-A states in a brief history of the cow campaign on its website.
Muller-Moore said that, more than likely, Chick-fil-A became aware of his kale t-shirts when he applied for a trademark for his phrase last summer. He said that he needed to protect his phrase because as many as nine different online t-shirt companies have tried to replicate his shirts.
His lawyer, Daniel Richardson, told CP that they are now waiting for a response from Chick-fil-A.
“We sent a response back to them saying that we didn’t believe we were diluting or infringing upon their trademark or creating any confusion,” Richardson said. “We asked them to rethink their position.”
Muller-Moore said that his “eat more kale” shirts should not be a conflict for Chick-fil-A’s cow campaign.
“Let me make it very clear. I’m selling a hand-printed t-shirt. Hand-printed t-shirts and chicken sandwiches are not in competition,” Muller-Moor said. “This isn’t a vegetable versus meat thing. This is art versus food. I am not confusing a single one of their customers. I have not cost them a dime.”
“I’m fighting this for small businesses, for artists, for myself, and for Vermont,” he said. His battle has also gone the route of an online petition.
Change.org is hosting a petition “demanding that Chick-fil-A stop blocking EAT MORE KALE's federal trademark.”
“It's time we take a stand against corporate bullying,” the petition states.
A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told AP that the company does not comment on pending legal matters.
Chick-fil-A is second only to KFC as the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States. The company has more than 1,500 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. In 2010, annual sales were over $3.5 billion, according to its website. Chick-fil-A is privately held and family owned.