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Restaurant franchise to artist: Don’t “eat more”

The trademark of catch phrases can be a tricky practice. A unique slogan such as Apple’s “there’s an app for that” is easily recognizable from the company’s popular iPhone ad campaign, even when it’s cited out of context. But in other cases, the shorter and more common the phrase, the harder it is to keep others from using it.

Georgia-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A is going after a Vermont folk artist who the company says has unlawfully co-opted the bulk of its trademarked slogan, “eat more chickin.” Chick-fil-A wants the man to halt his home silkscreen operation, which produces T-shirts and other items with the phrase “eat more kale.” Like the vegetable itself, the intellectual property dispute has left a bitter taste in the restaurant chain’s mouth.

According to The Associated Press, a letter from Chick-fil-A’s lawyer said the artist’s efforts to expand the use of the “eat more kale” slogan “is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value.” The chain has also demanded he give up the domain for his company website, eatmorekale.com

The artist says he first started printing the shirts in the year 2000 at the request of a fellow farmer. He started with three shirts at $10 each, but demand for the shirts grew rapidly, allowing him to launch his silkscreen business. Despite some 30 instances of other companies pressured by Chick-fil-A to stop using the “eat more” phrase, he says that after 11 years of producing his shirts and bumper stickers, he’s not about to back down, no matter how much smaller his business is than the restaurant chain.

This isn’t the first time the artist has ruffled Chick-fil-A’s feathers. The company made a similar demand five years ago, but a few letters between his and the restaurant chain’s lawyer seemed to resolve the matter. The difference now is that the artist himself is trying to copyright the phrase in case of competitors. It’s unclear what phrases he thinks might arise, or whether he feels he’s more entitled to the “eat more” phrase than other start-ups. As the saga continues, the artist may have to eat more legal fees.

Source: Yahoo News, “Vt. artist: I’ll fight Chick-fil-A for my kale,” Wilson Ring, Nov. 28, 2011

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