A three-year legal saga came to a close last week, with a Vermont folk artist being allowed to continue using the phrase, "Eat More Kale." Chick-fil-A, a Georgia-based fast food chain that uses the slogan "Eat Mor Chikin," brought an intellectual property suit against Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont resident and local food advocate. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Muller-Moore's request to trademark the phrase last Friday in a symbolic decision.
The Eat More Kale initiative is certainly a humble one, starting 13 years ago in Muller-Moore's home-based studio, before some of us had even heard of kale and how healthy it is. After he made a couple shirts for friends, others wanted one and the concept spread. He started selling the shirts at music festivals and farmers markets, until trouble sprang up in 2011.
When Muller-Moore applied to trademark the phrase, he was suddenly on Chick-fil-A's radar. The company coined the "Eat More Chikin" phrase in 1995, which is humorously said to have been initiated by cows to the interest of self-preservation. The advertising campaign has been highly successful and the backbone of the franchise's marketing efforts. Chick-fil-A's website explains: "These fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest, realized that when people eat chicken, they don't eat them. Today, the cows' herds have increased and their message reaches millions -- on television, radio, the Internet and the occasional water tower. Needless to say, Chick-fil-A fully endorses and appreciates the monumental efforts made by our most beloved bovine friends."
Apart from its advertising messages, Chick-fil-A is an interesting business in the way it operates. It is said to have a cult-like following among some customers and employees. All 1,800+ restaurants are closed on Sundays, yet it took the industry lead for average sales per restaurant at $2.7 million -- ahead of McDonald's at $2.4 million. This privately-held company also takes a unique approach to franchising; it has an very low franchise fee of $5,000 and is extremely selective in who operates its restaurants. The three-year legal battle may have also caused the company to receive some negative press, particularly for sustainable food enthusiasts.
Muller-Moore spoke in front of the Statehouse on Friday after being granted the trademark. "I've called Chick-fil-A's bluff on their cease-and-desist demands. I am not ceasing and desisting. I am thriving, thanks to people like you and thanks to Vermont and people from beyond."
But the fast-food chain's spokeswoman responded humorously: "Cows love kale, too."
Image Credit: Flickr/Mark Turnauckas
Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Green Builder, Home Power, and Urban Farm. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Midcoast Maine with her husband and two children.
Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.