Chick-Fil-A threatens guy who made "Eat More Kale" shirts; he fights back with a Kickstarter documentary

Bo sells a t-shirt that says "Eat More Kale" from his home in rural Vermont. Titanic chicken sandwich chain Chick-Fil-A claims that this shirt infringes on their trademark for the slogan "Eat Mor (sic) Chikin' (sic)." They've demanded that Bo shut down and turn over his website to them. Rather than capitulate, Bo is making a defiant documentary about his refusal, and he's raising funds on Kickstarter.

Of course, I might not win --- the odds are against me. All over the country 'trademark bullies,' large corporations that bully small businesses over alleged claims of trademark infringement, are legally harassing small businesses and wearing them down with repeated lawsuits and appeals. In the face of overwhelming legal bills, most small businesses just give up.

This is more than just plain wrong: it's un-American.

By helping make this documentary I want to shine a light on this issue, my battle, and other trademark bullies, too. If I win, it's a great story; if I lose, it's a sad story. Either way, Jim and I think it's a story worth telling.

It seems to me that there shouldn't be any valid trademark claim here. Leaving aside the spelling issue, the graphic presentation of "Eat More Kale" is very different from "Eat mor chikin." The phrase "Eat more," is pretty generic, and is unlikely to result in confusion. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm inclined to think that if Bo can stay in the fight long enough -- that is, if they don't outspend him into oblivion -- he stands a chance of winning.

A Defiant Dude by James Lantz and Eat More Kale guy — Kickstarter


    1. I have to second that. I see his stickers all over the place and I had never heard of this “eat mor’ chickin'” slogan. If anything, my assumption would be that Chik-fil-a owes him money once they start expanding into his markets.

    2. I’m in VT and I haven’t seen a Chick Fillet [sic] chain anywhere around here.  Plus I hate Kale, but I love this guy.  I sure hope he wins.

      1.  what lost wages? the ones they wouldn’t earn not working on one day of the week in the first place?
        You do know that most if not all states make it illegal to work 7 days in a row in many industries, right? they are required to give you at least one day a week off.

  1. I can’t help but think that a justice system that is predicated on money is a bad idea.  Like, I guess that makes me a crazy fringe lunatic?  But maybe super rich people & corporations shouldn’t be able to spend money on attacking people through the judicial system, & maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to dump tons of dough on lawyers?  I’m crazy, I guess.

    1. Unfortunately, every justice system that has ever existed is predicated on money.
      It’s called the Golden Rule: Those who have the gold make the rules.

          1. I dunno, I keep trying to warn rich folks that a widening gulf between an increasingly tiny percentage of people & everybody else might eventually have dire consequences. You’d think they’d listen before it is too late. I’m a crazy utopian, though.

        1.  As much as Americans like to deride the French, they seem to be much better at revolutions than Americans. Americans just don’t have the passion for defending their liberties; the French seem to make it a pastime.

          1. Are you joking? France has draconian slander and libel laws that make it virtually impossible for, oh I don’t know, a woman to report a rape without being countersued by the rapist. Politicians are routinely hauled into court for being mean to their political opponents.

          2. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus , I didn’t say France was perfect. But their unions still have teeth, they still protest against the encroaching corporatism, and on average most French people seem engaged in politics. I don’t see Americans taking their bosses hostage over the rising inequities of class.

      1. No. Legal systems are predicated on sexual repression/oppression the consequence of which is buying and selling and the development of money.

          1. I could go further. Suppresion/repression is the permitted loss of knowledge of the true sexual functioning of the body and the concomitant suppression of natural (non-oppressive) sexual and economic linguistic codes by the brain. This directs the process of ideation through the mind towards the development of mathematics. The primitive brain thinks logarithmically and is not motivated to develop linear mathematical thinking.This act of suppression/ repression temporarily is the only way out. Yes, it is meaningless to reduce it all to sex, but then again to say that psychosis and neurosis are fundamental to the development of mathematics is also too simplistic.
            Anyway. The loss of natural knowledge that we have of the sexual functioning of other’s bodies through the separation of body/brain communication results in unavoidable sexual oppression between people which is the foundation of textual writing and the law.

    2. As a European I think the USian reasoning goes like this:
      Lot’s of Money = he/it is successful =  he is doing it right = he is right!

      1.  Sadly, you went awry when you decided that we reach conclusions as the result of a reasoning process.

        Instead, you begin by writing down the conclusion you want to reach. Then you write down only those arguments that seem to point to it.

    3. If you are against giving the super-rich complete control then you are against job creation and America.  That is what Romney and Santorum have taught me.

        1. Well it is a perfect system, you see? Women and non white men belong to white men. Then among white men there the “Job Creators” and the “Beneficiaries” of those jobs, who are at least entitled to complete dominion over women and non-whites of all genders so it all works out in the end! Everyone is happy! See? Perfect.

          Oh and gay people are evil, but child rapists are either gay people or victims of gay children.

    4.  Someday, maybe we’ll have the equivalent of a public defender for civil suits. Until then, yes, this is definitely a problem.

      1. Even then– & I mean, yeah– I still want to see like…”fat cats” using public attorneys. Or like, if you want to spend a million dollars on your lawyer, half of it should do to the other guy. I don’t know, money is such a…feudal cudgel.

  2. Reminds me of the case of Wal-Mart shutting down the little old granny’s knitting shop (that had existed for years prior to WallyWorld) called “Wool Mart”. Bastards.

    On another note, why the hell aren’t the makers of “Eat-More” bars suing Chik-Fil-A into the ground, anyway?

    1. How about we take up a collection for a series of billboards with two flesh eating zombie mannequins like the Chik-fil-a cows and the logo “eat mor corporate xeckutives”

  3. Kale is awesome.  I’d rather have kale than chicken any day.  Down with bullies.  I hope he wins.

    1. Kale is.. kale. They make a cult out of kale where I live, they even manage to force federal politicians to swear allegiance to kale. Down with kale!

    2. Same here, Ross! I use it in LOTS of dishes and soups. Packed with goodness too, I gather.

      1. I swear this is true: roasted chicken with kale is exactly what we’re having tonight for dinner, decided on long before I read this post.

        1.  You’re not talking to some gullible babes-in-the-woods types here. We’re going to have to see a picture.

  4. Howies managed to successfully deflect a patent bullying from Levis by making sure that customers could tell the difference between Red and Blue (or grey) and could differentiate between the spelling of “Levis” and “Howies”. I remember them saying at the time that you can’t beat these lawyered up patent bullies, but you could ‘tickle’ them.

    I can only imagine that Chick-fil-a (is that right?) object not to any brand infringement, but rather that if you encourage people to eat kale, they have less room for chicken! They should show their human side by tossing away the lettuce from their chicken burgers, and replace it with a slice of kale. That stuff is delicious!

    1. With Chik-fil-a’s history of corporate bullying and huge contributions to homophobic causes, I doubt that finding a “human side” will be practical.

  5. I wonder if he’ll interview Rock Art Brewery (another Vermont company) about the time Monster Energy Drinks tried to sue Rock Art over their beer named the “Vermonster”

    1.  My question is, did they try suing Ben & Jerry’s for use of that? because they would lose, VERY badly.

  6. I hope this guy counter-sues for the massive waste of time and money imposed on him and the state. Meanwhile, where do I buy my t-shirt?

  7. Okay, I suggest a recursive cycle of Kickstarter projects, beginning with a documentary about the making of a documentary on Bo’s attempt to make a documentary ….

  8.  Because the makers of “Eat-More” bars aren’t ruthless, rancid, competition-killing cowards, like Chik-Fil-A.

    Attorney, Michael D. Hobbs, Jr.

    Attorney, Michael D. Hobbs, Jr.

    Literacy? My grandmother would have written  a letter to someone. 

  10. Google the phrase ‘eat more possum’ — is that where the Chik-Fil-A phrase comes from? Is Chik-Fil-A a later version of the ‘eat more possum’ guy? I’m a consumer and I’m confused.

  11. I’m lovin’ this guy!

    EDIT: I just got sued by McDonalds for loving something other than McDonalds.

  12. Always amusing when self-declared “Christian” companoies start sueing people despite the orders from their chief zombie (Jesus) not to sue people and if sued not to defend yourself.

    I have no problem as such with ruthless capitalism, I am a nasty-evil Capitalist myself, but it’s the image of the pure “family-values”, loving, won’t work on Sundays even though Jesus told us the ol rule swere no longer in force, Christian that gets me every time such a place pulls this ****.

    1. I think St. Paul was saying that Christians should not sue Christians. They should instead work out their differences before the church elders. I don’t think there’s anything saying a Christian can’s sue a nonbeliever.

      Chick-Fil-A tastes like crap anyway. Whataburger and Taco Cabana are much better and are open 24-7. 

      1. That is what it intends, not just to hedge against the ever-growing body of secular law, but to ensure the Church gets a taste for settling the dispute.

        Absolutely you can sue a nonbeliever/heretic without ticking off the church, but you better step lively with the tithe of any winnings.

  13. Given that Chick-Fil-A’s profits are directed straight towards buying theocratic laws, and that I do not support the Taliban, ever, cheers to this guy!  I’d pick chicken over greens any day of the week, except when it’s these two choices.

        1. I hated kale until my wife found this recipe:

          Kale, chopped
          Soak in combination vinegar and lemon juice for at least 5 minutes, you drain off the excess, so whatever amount in whatever balance.

          Add chopped avocado and crumbled feta

          Bam you’re done.

          The vinegar/lemon juice flavours it sure, but it also cooks it, softens it and removes much o the bitter. It’s really good, like, like not kale or something.

          1. Everyone who was whining about being too poor to buy a $5 cast iron skillet,  please look away now.
            Kale is OMG delicious when prepared as follows:     Go spend NINE WHOLE DOLLARS on a small 300 mL  bottle of  Eden Foods Mirin – this is important – all the other brands are dilute cornsyrup.  Eden is the real thing, made by culturing rice.  

            Wash & rinse the Kale, but leave damp for steam.  In a lidded pot of suitable size,   heat about a tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat.   Optionally toss in a diced shallot.  Add kale and cover to steam for about 5 minutes.  Towards the end,  add in about a tablespoon of the mirin & re-cover pot.  Shake to coat.  Steam it for a minute longer and you’re done.

            The gentle & complex sweetness of the mirin plays against the mildly bitter & vegetal flavor of the kale.   Share and enjoy.

  14.  For the sake of completeness, I’d like to remind everyone what the Golden Rule really is, because it’s so rarely cited as the Golden Rule any more, and it is as valuable to us all as its name suggests:

    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

    1. That’s certainly A golden rule, and probably an earlier one than the ironic “them that has the gold” thing.

      But of course it’s still not a very good rule…

    2. I must further support shadowfirebird’s statement by pointing out that the particular golden rule cited by anwaya breaks down quickly upon encountering any form of sadist or masochistic traits in others.

      1.  Thank you both for making my point. Shadowfirebird: please google the “Golden Rule”. It is as old as the Code of Hammurabi, runs through all the major religions, but doesn’t depend on a God, so is compatible with secular humanism.

        And Funk Daddy: yes, it breaks down when you encounter sociopathy. Of which there would be less if the Golden Rule were still taught as a basic ethical position.

      2. That’s a silly, overly literal reading of the golden rule that reduces it to assuming everyone has the same preferences as you.  You might as well say “I like spinach, SPINACH FOR EVERYBODY.”  Sadism and masochism are preferences, too.

  15. Corporations are amoral. Also, they have to reasonably defend a copyright in order to maintain it. Naturally, the larger the company, the more hostile this appears. It might not be necessary, or “right”, but it’s just how this machine operates.

    1. What’s your point? Are the people who run them also exempt from any morals? Do they have no control over the actions taken by their own lawyers? The whole point is that this is not a “reasonable defense” of a copyright, but rather an abuse of the entire system. It appears hostile because it IS hostile. Companies are also expected to make a profit from the business they do. Since it is likely cheaper to process the chicken in a way that leaves it open to bacterial contaminations, would you just accept lower sanitary conditions as “just how the machine operates”?

      1. Technically that is in fact correct.  As I understand it, if Chick-Fil-A (ridiculous name) is a company with shareholders, then the ONLY thing that the CEO etc can consider is improving the value of the company and the dividend to shareholders, and if he uses any other criteria to steer the company, he can be fired.

        Which of course gives anyone running a company a licence to be amoral.  But.

        What the CEO certainly *can* — and should — say is that a spurious claim like this damages the reputation of the company, and wastes money.  So, not entirely clear-cut.

        1.  Yes, a corporation must fulfill it’s fiduciary duty to shareholders, but there is no legal rule governing the time frame it must consider. Maximum profit in the next quarter? Year? Decade? Century? On a long enough timescale all the second-order effects of decisions viewed by human beings as wrong will outweigh the near-term profits.

          After all, the way to maximize profit *today* is to liquidate the whole company and fire everyone. That would be stupid, but it is the result of extrapolating the general argument the corporations only consider near-term shareholder value.

          1. Again, technically true.  But the mechanism that validates “fiduciary duty” is not a logic machine; it’s the board of directors, or the shareholders themselves. 

            short-sighted shareholders have destroyed their company for a quick profit before.  Ignorant shareholders probably think that suing random people for trademark infringement is a good plan.

            Point is: either way, it’s the root problem here: it’s a recipe for sidestepping any sort of ethical or moral consideration.

      2. There is a smart point behind ian_b’s line of reasoning. Chic-fil-a’s action is happening as the result of a system.  That’s why this type of thing is common with other companies as well. Railing against chic-fil-a and expecting them to buck that trend is a lot of effort that will not change the system that caused it. 

        Even if they make a full retraction of their threat or even give the guy their explicit blessing, the system that causes this to happen is still in place.

        Thinking about it in this context makes one realize that a system contains many interconnected parts. It makes one wonder what parts may be easier to change that would have an effect on this particular problem that keeps occurring. It’s a path to solutions.

        But unfortunately it’s also a path that is unpopular, as we can see from these responses. 99 out of 100 much prefer to get emotional and curse symptoms, rather than pondering ways to change the root cause.

        1. Chic-fil-a’s action is happening as the result of a system.

          The system exists because corporations paid lawmakers to create it.

    2. You’re wrong about copyright (it needn’t be defended to be maintained).

      You’re wrong about what the legal threat pertains to. It’s about trademark, not copyright.

      You’re wrong about trademark, too: the circumstances in which a failure to enforce a mark leads to the mark becoming generic do not arise from a failure to threaten people making non-confusing uses of unrelated — but vaguely similar — marks.

      1. You’re right, I did mean trademark. In any case, how does a company prevent the mark from becoming generic besides continuing to use it themselves? Does this mean they should only threaten people who use their trademark verbatim? If they don’t need to defend it to maintain it, then should they do anything at all?

        I’m out of my depth on the legal aspects, but I can see how they would perceive this as a threat to their brand. I’m curious what solution would allow companies to protect their brand while preventing corporate bullying. That’s really the meat of my point. I don’t think we can expect companies to “do the right thing”. They’re not people, they’re profit machines.

        1. You’ve got it, using it is the best defence of trademark, shelving it for use in the future is dangerous, and in an instance of verbatim usage, threats are not the answer so much as actual action would be.

          This is a stretch as awesomerobot says above, thereby cutting off his own feet. It is likely not so much a threat from Chick-fil-A as it is a threat from legal counsel employed by or contracted by Chick-fil-A. Purpose being to fluff billing or justify budgets. Chick-fil-A bears all responsibility for this abusive stretch in the end because they are the necessary means to that unnecessary end.

          Similar doesn’t cut the mustard in the end, neither does it matter if it’s on a t-shirt when there is clearly little hope of making the confusion case, that’s why threat is employed and size matters.

          Patent/Copyright/Trademark trolls come in all shapes and sizes and are identified as such when egregious over-reaching is this obvious.

          There are nth many campaigns/products featuring the words Eat more XXX, but the trolls that do this sort of bullying rely on their target capitulating due to threat where size matters, and that the target usually remains quiet for the same threat. 

          Note that EAT-MORE is a Hershey’s product, and Hershey’s would simply have Chick-fil-A -fire- anyone dumb enough to try something like this with them. Likewise the many other large entities that have utilized “Eat more xxxx” in campaigns that also include t-shirts and stuff. 

          This guy has a chance not just because he is not cutting into their biz at all and is entirely dissimilar in his usage of a common phrase, but because he is not being quiet. 

          For that he deserves all the support he can get and then some.

        2. Expectations of ethical behaviour are not limited to individuals by any means. Amoral action justified with paper structures are still amoral and to be accepting of such is amoral, a sign of weak character. 

          That so many people believe otherwise and state otherwise as fact doesn’t make it fact, it only means that those individuals are of weak character and/or have vested interest in furthering the acceptance of wrongdoing by other means.

  16. so in theory chik-fil-a could be bankrupted defending their copyright if millions of people made an iron on logo for a t-shirt that said, “eat more ________” ? and wore it.

    just the millions of cease and desist letters their legal team would be obligated to mail out would bankrupt them.

  17. Buy Buy,  Misamericam Dream…

    Outspending someentity prevails over justice and common sense.

    Reminds me of the Patent Wars Saga.

    Epsiode IV: Patent Wars
    Episode V: Someone strikes back
    Episode VI: Return of the Patent Knights
    Episode I: The Phantom Patents
    Episode II:  Attack of the Clone Patents
    Episode III: Revenge of the Patents

    Episode EFF:  Came last to a computer near you in 1975

  18. “This is more than just plain wrong: it’s un-American.”
    Un-American? What other country does this sort of thing to this extent? Mad lawyer stories always seem to come from the USA. 

    Okay, not all Americans are like that. The guy that is protesting is American too. But you know what I mean…

  19. Isn’t one of the most basic aspects of our theory of justice the right to confront one’s accuser? Not a representative of one’s accuser, but the personage that has claimed damages?

    Given that, and that corporations are a legal fiction, should not any accusation they make against a person be dismissed out of hand?

  20. What I don’t understand: they’re called Chick-Fil-A but their slogan is Eat Mor Chikin’, without the second c? So, it would be pronounced “chy-kin”???

    In the end, it’s a stupid company name and a stupid slogan. Does the slogan really have to follow the spelling of the name? Eat More Chicken. There. Makes sense. Still has zip. And it’s not annoying.

    But then I’ve never heard of this company until now so I assume they wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what I think.

    1. Maybe they could be prosecuted for multiple counts of corrupting the spelling of minor.

    2.  The conceit of the ad campaign is that it is a grassroots effort by cows, and cows aren’t too good at spelling.

      The ads are just about the most attractive thing about the company – their food is mediocre, not even as good as a $1 McChicken, but at about 3x the price. Their dismal decor is made worse by the cheap fluorescents they use until the last flicker dies. Everything about the company is focused on buying the cheapest ingredients, skimping on operations and selling “food” for more than the market would bear if it weren’t for the massive ad campaign.

      1. Worked at a Chick-Fil-A when I was 16…

        It is mediocre, they smartly located in malls back in the early days of malls, thereby assuring a captive patronage of mall-goers with few choices. By definition all fast food is mediocre though, everyone has a favourite mediocre too. 

        Back then we were made to pray at the beginning of the day, even though the married manager was obviously trying to get into the pants of all the female staff he felt compelled to follow the godly company directives. 

        The management used all the usual labour abuse practices that were coming of age in the 80’s along with my generation. Short hours = no benefits, minimum wage minus source deductions and unspecified administrative costs = less than minimum wage, we were in a right-to-work state so firing was no problem and no recourse, really it’s just a generic model with God attached to hedge against bad practices costing anyone at the corp a nights sleep.

        I once accidentally served a customer the fake pie in the display case. That was my finest hour and my last day. I was elated at both.

  21. Ben & Jerry’s should have sued the Monster Drink people over ‘Vermonster’ – they used it first to describe an awesome ice cream sundae thing that serves about 50 people – or 10 stoned UVM students.

  22. There’s a serious lack of information here, both in Boing Boing’s blog post and in the original website. It doesn’t say anywhere that they’ve filed suit against him, and honestly, it’s not worth a half hour/hour/whatever of my time to watch his documentary to find out.

    If it’s a just cease and desist letter, obviously he should ignore it. C&Ds are sent all the time and they carry no legal weight. They’re really just meant as a vaguely-threatening statement to get you to stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing because you don’t have any knowledge of the US legal system. Rarely will inaction lead to a lawsuit.

    The odds of them taking him to court are practically zero and he probably knows this, but he’s using the C&D as a marketing gimmick to bring more visitors to his website, in turn, earning him more money. If they were to take him to court and he had decent legal representation, there’s no doubt that he would win.

    1. Most C&D’s of that nature limit to C&D and do not necessarily demand the assets of the target. Many C&D’s are ignored, by people willing to spend $300 to have it assessed. 

      Many are not ignored, particularly by small homegrown businesses run by individuals of limited means. My company utilizes phrases and idioms like any other, but only act on verbatim+product specific usage, and can tell the difference between a troll/idiot and any other. That ability didn’t come without cost.

      But if your point was that legitimate social causes make excellent marketing campaigns for people with beneficial messages, then good for you.

  23. Check out the Eat more…. campaign from the 1920’s, 60 years before Chic-fil-A was founded:
    JAMA.: The Journal of the American Medical Association: Volume 77 – Page 1109 Medical Association, HighWire Press – 1921 – Free Google eBook – Read”EAT-MORE” CAMPAIGNS This is the day of the “Eat-More” campaign. From billboards, newspaper advertisements and periodical pages, the slogan “Eat-More” crashes upon the reader’s intelligence. He is besought to eat more meat; …
    Note that there are many more books that use the slogan
     Even Kiplinger’s uses “eat more chicken”:
    Kiplinger’s Personal Finance – Jun 1984 – Page 72

  24. The fact that he argues that this is “un-American” almost makes me want him to lose this case. It’s so un-Swedish!

  25. How about a shirt that says, “Eat Less Chicken – Especially that produced by anti-gay companies”  If Chick-a -Fil sues then they’ll admit that they are that company.  A lot like Yes or No  – Have you stopped beating your wife?  How about “Stop choking your chicken and instead eat more leafy greens”?

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