Chick-fil-A takes on Vermont farmer over kale t-shirt sales

A Vermont folk artist attempting to expand his home t-shirt business built around phrase "eat more kale," finds himself up against a formidable, and some would say, delicious, opponent: Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A, whose own trademarked slogan "eat mor chikin," has tried to shut down Bo Muller-Moore's hand silkscreen operation claiming his t-shirts cause brand confusion amongst customers:

In a letter, a lawyer for Chick-fil-A said Muller-Moore's effort to expand the use of his "eat more kale" message "is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminishes its value."

In the Oct. 4 letter, lawyers for Chick-fil-A provided 30 examples of failed attempts by other companies and individuals to co-opt the partial use of their slogan, "eat more." All 30 of the slogans were withdrawn after legal protests from Chick-fil-A. The letter demands that Muller-Moore stop using the phrase on his t-shirts and hand over the domain to his company website,

Chick-fil-A also recently waded into public controversy when it was revealed the company's founder S. Truett Cathy, was giving financial support to groups opposing gay marriage, including Focus on the Family. The new prompted Chick-fil-A president Dan C. Cathy to post a video on the company's Facebook fan page assuring customers that Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against its customers or employees.

The food chain has long been known for its conservative Christian values--including the practice of keeping all Chick-fil-A franchises closed on Sundays.

However, Muller-Moore, 38, says he's been using the phrase since 2000 and is ready to fight on against the nation's second-largest chicken franchise.

"Our plan is to not back down. This feels like David versus Goliath. I know what it's like to protect what's yours in business," he said.

So he has enlisted the help of Montpelier lawyer Daniel Richardson and the intellectual property clinic at the University of New Hampshire School of Law's Intellectual Property and Transaction Clinic.

"Bo's is a very different statement. It's more of a philosophical statement about local agriculture and community-supported farmers markets," said Daniel Richardson of the New Hampshire School of Law's Intellectual Property and Transaction Clinic, who is representing Muller-Moore. "At the end of the day, I don't think anyone will step forward and say they bought an 'eat more kale' shirt thinking it was a Chick-fil-A product."

Chick-fil-A spokesman Don Perry said the company does not comment on pending legal matters.

Muller-Moore says his business began when a fellow Vermont farmer asked him to make three copies of the shirt for $10 each back in 2000. Local demand for the t-shirts quickly expanded, which helped Muller-Moore launch his silkscreen shirt business, which also includes bumper stickers featuring the phrase.

This isn't the first showdown between Chick-fil-A and Muller-Moore, who says he received a similar letter from the company five years ago. However, after a pro bono lawyer traded a few letters with the company, the complaints apparently stopped. The renewed attention came after Muller-Moore tried to copyright his own phrase for potential competitors.

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