Kale vs. Chick-fil-A: A Play in 8 Acts

A folk artist has won a trademark against the objections of Big Chicken. Here's how it happened.

In 1995, Chick-fil-A introduced its "Eat mor chikin" campaign—a campaign that plays on the joke that cows have a vested interest in humans liking to eat chicken.
As the fast-food chain's website cheekily 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."
In 2000, the Vermont-based folk artist Bo Muller-Moore was asked by his friend, a kale farmer, to create T-shirts featuring the phrase "Eat More Kale." The farmer wanted to sell the shirts to friends and family.
The "Eat More Kale" phrase caught on beyond the farmer's family. Muller-Moore began silkscreening it to other items of clothing. He made "Eat More Kale" bumper stickers. People loved it. It's hard to argue with kale.
In the summer of 2011, after a decade of using "Eat More Kale" in his work, Muller-Moore sought to trademark the phrase.
Later the same year, Chick-fil-A sent Muller-Moore a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he stop using "Eat More Kale." It was too close, the company explained, to "Eat mor chikin." It is, lawyers explained, "likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value."
Chick-fil-A's letter also cited 30 examples of other people and entities who had used the "eat more" phrase and withdrew it after the company objected.
Muller-Moore refused to abandon "Eat More Kale." He continued to use the slogan in his products, which he sold in Vermont and—given kale's increasing popularity—beyond.
In 2013, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave Muller-Moore a "preliminary no" in his effort to protect "Eat More Kale" against Chick-fil-A’s complaints. The office gave him, however, six more months to make a better case that the phrase should be trademarked.
Today, the USPTO granted Muller-Moore's application for the trademark. In response, around two dozen supports of Muller-Moore, including Peter Shumlin, Vermont's governor,  gathered to hear him speak about the decision. Many wore green "eat more kale" stickers. As Muller-Moore put it: "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."
Chick-fil-A, for its part, is taking the loss in good stride. As a company spokesperson put it: "Cows love kale, too."