MONTPELIER, Vt. — A folk artist who became a folk hero to some after picking a fight with fast-food giant Chick-fil-A over use of the phrase “eat more kale” — similar to their trademarked “eat mor chikin” — has won his legal battle.
Bo Muller-Moore said Friday outside the Statehouse that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had granted his application to trademark “eat more kale,” a phrase he says promotes local agriculture. He silk-screens the phrase on T-shirts and sweatshirts and prints it on bumper stickers that are common in Vermont and beyond.
“I’ve called Chick-fil-A’s bluff on their cease-and-desist demands,” Muller-Moore said, speaking to about two dozen supporters — including Gov. Peter Shumlin — who wore green “eat more kale” stickers. “I am not ceasing and desisting. I am thriving, thanks to people like you and thanks to Vermont and people from beyond.”
Chick-fil-A uses the phrase in images that include cows holding signs with the misspelled phrase “eat mor chikin” because, as Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Carrie Kurlander put it, “when people eat chicken, they do not eat cows.”
Her response to the kale decision: “Cows love kale, too.”
Muller-Moore started using the phrase in 2001 after a farmer friend who grows the leafy vegetable that is known for its nutritional value asked him to make three T-shirts for his family for $10 each.
The phrase caught on and, with the approval of the farmer, Muller-Moore began putting it on clothing and bumper stickers.
In the summer of 2011, Muller-Moore sought to trademark the phrase. It was a short time later that Chick-fil-A sent Muller-Moore a letter telling him to stop using the phrase because the company felt it could be confused with “eat mor chikin.” In the letter, Chick-fil-A cited 30 examples of others who had tried to use the “eat more” phrase and withdrew it after the company objected.
But Muller-Moore refused. He used social media and won the support of state officials, including Shumlin and pro-bono lawyers, including law students from a legal clinic at the University of New Hampshire law school.
Shumlin said Friday that Muller-Moore was a shining example of Vermont’s independence and entrepreneurial spirit.
“This is more than just about a victory for ‘eat more kale,'” Shumlin said. “It’s a victory for grow local. It’s a victory for Vermont’s small food and farm agricultural renaissance, and it’s a victory for Vermont.”
Muller-Moore said his persistence increased his business, which took off the day after the governor’s first news conference with him three years ago. But he still considers it a good day when he sells 10 to 15 T-shirts, and he hasn’t quit his day job at a bakery.
“Chick-fil-A did me a bit of a favor: They handed me lemons, and I made lemonade,” he said.