September 24, 2013

Chik-fil-A sues Eat More Kale Guy!? ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

A Leafy & Meaty Trial: Why the “Eat More Kale” Guy might beat Chik-fil-A in Court.

When I talked to Bo Muller-Moore, the “Eat More Kale guy” on the phone, I was thoroughly entertained for about half an hour.

A quirky artist, he makes earthy T-shirts promoting the consumption of kale.

Bo started making the Eat More Kale t-shirts 13 years ago; when he started, he made $500 a year off the sale of the shirts. Now, he makes about $250,000 a year off of them. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont and drives around in a Subaru that is almost as old as I am. His studio–where he makes the Eat More Kale t-shirts–is located downtown behind his 120 year old house in the upper level of his garage.

He is a dude making t-shirts in a studio with the company of his stereo and a pet tortoise; consequently, he calls this space his “Dudio.” He truly represents folk artisanship and the American work ethic… the age-old adage that someone living in the USA is capable of making something out of nothing.

And the corporate fast-food giant, Chik-fil-A, has taken him to court in an effort to disband the Eat More Kale brand, which they claim infringes upon their motto, “Eat mor chikin.”

Chik-fil-A, which has strict evangelical Christian business practices, and makes more money per restaurant per year than McDonald’s, originally sent Muller-Moore a cease-and-desist letter, asking EMK to do exactly that… cease and desist with the Eat More Kale brand.

Photo credit: Ann Larie Valentine

In the spirit of American persistence, Muller-Moore filed for a trademark and the U.S. Patent and Trademark office is scheduled to make a final ruling in less than five months. Though trademark scholars do not think that the Kale Guy has much of a chance in securing a trademark, many people are hoping that he can beat the [persistent] corporate, chicken-wielding bully in court.

“Their persistence comes out of the poison of unrestricted power,” Muller-Moore says. 

And Muller-Moore knows persistence when he sees it. A foster parent, Muller-Moore takes care of his profoundly-autistic adult son, Seamus. He makes about five dollars an hour to be a foster parent, a figure that he says hasn’t changed since the Gulf War.

When it comes to parenting, “I could do a shitty job or a good job, and it doesn’t matter. I am an American, but in social services, that is not the case.”

This lack of importance placed on taking care of others—being compassionate—is exactly what we see in the Chik-fil-A vs. EatMoreKale.com case. Chik-fil-A claims that the two mottos are confusing to customers.

Last time I checked, kale and chicken were nothing alike, and I did not accidentally order a T-shirt instead of chicken strips. 

But alas, the fast-food chain continues its attempts to shut down Muller-Moore’s leafy operation, even though his product undeniably has no effect on their sales.

“For me, this money is my livelihood. For the owners of Chik-fil-A, this may be a weekend golfing outing,” says Muller-Moore.

When I asked him how his business started, he told me EatMoreKale.com started out as something for he and his autistic son to do together. Now, he works hard making these shirts… hand-making them. And, his love of T-shirts has led to a chain of sustainable business practices that Chik-fil-A does not subscribe to. Muller-Moore screen prints his simple patterns onto locally-dyed T-shirts from Comfort Colors, an eco-minded Vermont business.

If Chik-fil-A wins and succeeds in shutting down EatMoreKale.com, it is not the end of the road for the Kale Guy. He says he could probably obtain a common law trademark, which would essentially allow him to continue to make his shirts under the same name. And Muller-Moore, who is anything but an anarchist, understands why Chik-fil-A has a problem: “I understand a corporation protecting [the comparison of] apples to apples. I just don’t understand a corporation protecting [the comparison of] apples to zebras.”

Bo Muller-Moore is a man with a green-minded message, and he does what he loves. He stands for sustainability, artisanship, and honest work; it is despicable that a corporate entity—one that stands for Christian values—and the United States legal system would engage in this dispute against one of its citizens.

Two businesses—each of very different sizes and stature, that have coexisted perfectly for 12 years—are now standing up to each other, and the court will make a decision soon.

May the best man (and his food) win.

For more info about Bo Muller-Moore and a tour of his studio, visit EatMoreKale.com and watch:

 Like right livelihood on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: via EMK Facebook page}


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