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Vermont Kale Advocate Battles Chick-fil-A Over Slogan Similarities

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Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM
click to enlarge A Chick-fil-A ad in Germany. - HMBOO/FLICKR

"Eat mor chikin," beg the witless cows in Chick-fil-A advertisements, eager to avoid a grisly fate and carrying on the Atlanta-based chain's tradition of eccentric spelling in the process. As far as intellectual property goes, the slogan is pretty low-wattage, but that isn't stopping the company from breaking out some long knives to deal with a Vermont entrepreneur who has managed to ruffle its feathers by using a very similar slogan to push a less fleshly substance.

Since 2000, Bo Muller-Moore has been selling T-shirts emblazoned with the motto "eat more kale" to express support for local agriculture. Once he moved on to sweatshirts and bumper stickers and tried to copyright the phrase to protect his slow-growing business, Chick-fil-A's lawyers swarmed like hens around a scattering of seeds. According to A.P., one of the company's attorneys said in a statement that Muller-Moore was "likely to cause [public confusion] and dilute the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminish its value." An Oct. 4 letter apparently demanded that Muller-Moore stop peddling the slogan and hand over the keys to his website to Chick-fil-A.

With the assistance of a Montpelier lawyer and the University of New Hampshire School of Law's Intellectual Property and Transaction Clinic, Muller-Moore will not yield to the chopping block so swiftly. And chances are, he won't have to at all.

Quoted in the same AP piece, a Vermont Law School professor named Oliver Goodenough offered the understatement of the week: "This looks a bit like an example of over-enthusiasm for brand protection."

Yeah, we'd say so. And nothing sells chicken sandwiches like a story about a big-league chicken sandwich purveyor's posse of lawyers clamping down on a gentle hippie who, when he's not celebrating a leafy green, earns a living working as a foster parent to an adult with special needs. "Eat more kale" T-shirts, on the other hand, should sell like chicken sandwiches. That said, Muller-Moore's next legally unadvisable move should be more kale propaganda aping corporate slogans: Always Kale; Just Do Kale; Maybe She's Born With It, Maybe It's Kale; and so on.

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