Kale Becomes Corporate Coop Food For Chick-Fil-A

Fast food chain Chick-fil-A fights a kale lover from Vermont for rights to an ad campaign.

Sometimes I get confused and grab a big fat handful of family-farmed kale when what I really want is a fried chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A. It’s disappointing every time.

The lawyers for the nation’s second largest fast food chicken chain, Chick-fil-A, understand what I’m talking about. That’s why Chick-fil-A is suing Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont-based folk artist who earns a living working as a foster parent for an adult with special needs, because he has been printing the phrase “Eat More Kale” on t-shirts and bumper stickers since 2000. Chick-fil-A’s argument is that those words dilute its brand and might be too easily confused with its ad campaign – which began in 1995 – featuring cows using the phrase “Eat Mor Chikn.”

Here’s how the beef started. A friend of Muller-Moore’s grows kale and asked him to make three t-shirts for his family and paid him $10 for each top. The shirts gained some popularity around town and now Muller-Moore sells them on his website, along with other products with the phrase.

Chick-fil-A sent a cease-and-desist letter in 2006, but backed down when Muller-Moore fought back. But, he re-ruffled the feathers recently when he applied for a federal trademark to protect his business name.

Muller-Moore hasn’t confirmed that his slogan was inspired by the cow campaign, but given the timeline, there’s a case to be made that his pro-kale merch is a play on the chicken franchise’s slogan. But the question is: Why does a giant corporation like Chick-fil-A care? And if this is lawsuit worthy, why aren’t the Got Milk? people suing everyone? (An aside: I wish they would.)

First, there’s the fair concern of brand identity. Imagine if Reebok’s new catch phrase were “I just did that.” Yet, we have to scratch our heads and ask how could Chick-fil-A be threatened by a do-gooding kale lover from Vermont?

Second, there’s the publicity. Chick-fil-A’s suit has brought more attention and traffic to eatmorekale.com than Muller-Moore likely ever would have gotten on his own or from people typing “eat more” into Google. For the most part, the company is being criticized for stepping on the little guy (insert David and Goliath reference here). But, Chick-fil-A is in the headlines. And the cow campaign is back in the forefront at a time when the chain is in expansion mode. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Protecting creative work is important. But this is just corporate bullying.

Sadly, reports The Atlantic, history is on the side of the bully. Chick-Fil-A has already succeeded in protecting the “Eat More” tagline more than 30 times, according to a letter sent to Muller-Moore. At the moment, this battle is being fought in the court of public opinion: The internet. If you’d like to stand up for the little guy, sign the petition on change.org and maybe skip the trip to Chick-fil-A.