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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A folk artist who became a folk hero to some after picking a fight with fast-food giant Chik-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 Thursday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 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 them on bumper stickers that are common in Vermont and beyond.
When asked what he felt caused the trademark office to approve his application, Muller-Moore, of Montpelier, said, “Your guess is as good as mine.” The news was posted on the office’s website Tuesday.
“I’d like to think that maybe some persistence and polite defiance, you know, and proving to them that we were in it for the long haul,” he said. “If it took us a decade, we’re going to fight for a decade.”
Muller-Moore is planning a formal announcement of his victory Friday with Gov. Peter Shumlin and other supporters on the Statehouse steps.
“The message is out: Don’t mess with Vermont. And don’t mess with Bo,” Shumlin said Thursday in a statement. “This isn’t just a win for the little guy who stands up to a corporate bully; it’s a win for our state. In Vermont, we care about what’s in our food, who grows it, and where it comes from.”
“Cows love kale, too,” said Carrie Kurlander, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based Chik-fil-A.
Muller-Moore started using the phrase in 2000 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 Chik-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, Chik-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.
“In our case, we said we’re not going to cease and desist until a federal judge tells us to and as far as the trademark goes, I never wavered from the idea that I deserved protection from copycat artists,” Muller-Moore said.
His public fight drew the support of Shumlin and a team of pro-bono lawyers, including law students from the University of New Hampshire legal clinic.