I’m always intrigued when The Big Guy takes on The Little Guy – especially when it appears that The Little Guy isn’t really doing all that much that’s terrible, or harmful to The Big Guy, or otherwise trampling on The Big Guy’s rights. And when The Big Guy’s an Atlanta-based fast-food chain, and The Little Guy’s an artist from Vermont, well, I don’t really have to think, even for a nano-second, about whose side I’m likely to land on.
As I saw in a recent Economist, Chick-fil-A, an outfit that doesn’t seem to have a very big presence in these parts but a Big Guy nonetheless, had done a cease and desist on tee-shirt artist Bo Muller-Moore a few years ago. They got on his case for selling tee-shirts imprinted with a phrase Eat More Kale, which Chick-Fil-A’s legal-eagles deemed a tad too close to their Eat More Chikin slogan.
Understandably, Bo – who had been already been selling the shirts for a few years, in tribute to a couple of friends who own a kale farm – chose not to cease and desist.
After all, how could someone confuse the phrase “Eat More Kale”, imprinted on a tee-shirt sold online and at Vermont farmers’ markets, with Chick-Fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin.” It’s not as if the print style is similar. It’s not as if there were, say, a broccoli stalk or a cauliflower holding a sign saying “Eat Mor Kayl”. And it’s not very likely that anyone frequenting a Vermont farmers market to buy kale, honey, Indian corn, and twelve-pound loaves of bread would have even heard of Chick-fil-A – which has no outlets in Vermont – let alone eaten a sandwich from one.
So Bo Muller-Moore took the Chick-fil-A cease and desist with a grain of sea salt.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Bo tried to copyright the phrase “Eat More Kale.” Which aroused the giant within the Chick-fil-A empire.
They warned Mr Muller-Moore that they had successfully pressured other miscreants into dropping some 30 slogans, from “Eat More Dog” to “Eat More Music”. Their letter also alleged that Mr Muller-Moore’s “misappropriation of Chick-fil-A’s EAT MOR CHIKIN intellectual property…is likely to cause confusion.”
Only in America would a banal slogan – rendered somewhat less cretinous by its quaint, presumably bovine misspelling - pass for “intellectual property.”
And what, pray tell, is the “confusion” that the “misappropriation” of this “intellectual property” going to cause.
Now, I can see where “Eat More Dog” might cause some confusion with a fast food restaurant. But “Eat More Kale”?
One would hope that common sense will prevail here, and that the no-fun bully boys – $4B in sales, vs. Muller-Moore’s $40K – back off (or lose in court).
But the Chick-fil-A-holes have a lot more money to spend on their crusade to defend their, ahem, “intellectual property,” so I wouldn’t bet against them.
Still, I suspect the polls – if there were any – would be running about 10:1 in favor of Bo Muller-Moore, and that this entire affair makes Chick-fil-A appear petty, silly, and mean spirited. As The Economist has it:
Chick-fil-A may end up eating more crow.
As for me, I have an “Eat More Kale” tee-shirt on order, and hope to be sporting it soon.
Not that I will actually be eating any more kale.
Come fall, however, when I buy the mums that I plunk in the garden every year, I will pick up a couple of heads of ornamental kale.
Like New Englanders, it’s hearty and should hold its own, at least until Christmas.