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Chick-fil-A Loses Legal Battle to Kale Enthusiast

Words by Sarah Lozanova
Energy & Environment
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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

<a href="http://www.sarahlozanova.com">Sarah Lozanova</a> is a green copywriter and communications professional specializing in renewable energy and clean technology. She is a consultant for Sustainable Solutions Group and a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Home Power, Earth911, and Green Builder. 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.

Read more stories by Sarah Lozanova