In Vermont, Fighting For The Rights To ‘Eat More’

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(Host) This is a David versus Goliath story. Except it’s about kale and chicken. A Montpelier folk artist who designs and sells t-shirts that read "Eat More Kale" is fighting charges of trademark infringement from a fast-food chain whose slogan is "Eat Mor Chikin."

As VPR’s Kirk Carapezza reports, there is precedent in Vermont for the trademark case.

(Carapezza) Up here in his modest studio, Bo Muller-Moore prints a t-shirt with a hand-made screen print.

(Muller-Moore) "I lift the screen up, and there you go. There’s a brand new Eat More Kale t-shirt."

(Carapezza) And for that craft, the 39-year-old artist has become known around Vermont’s capital city as the Eat More Kale Guy.

(Muller-Moore) "I guess if you print enough shirts with the same design, you get to be known for something."

(Carapezza) And, he says, if you print thousands of shirts, selling them for $25 each, you can even support yourself and your family. But his recent effort to trademark his art is causing him some legal headaches.

Since moving to Montpelier from Memphis 13 years ago, Muller-Moore has printed dozens of designs inspired by his neighbors’ hobbies.

(Muller-Moore) "Here’s one called the "Brown Note." That’s for musicians. There’s a couple of hammers. That’s for my handy friends."

(Carapezza) Of all these shirts, he says, "Eat More Kale" is his "golden goose."

(Muller-Moore) "It sticks because it’s a big design. It’s easy to see. And at a very practical level people really seem to love the hell out of kale – or hate it. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of competition."

(Carapezza) But in August, he grew worried about imitators online, so he applied for a federal trademark.

(Muller-Moore) "In the past three years I’ve had no less than nine t-shirt artists try to sell my font, my design, on t-shirts, online. I need a trademark if my business is ever going to grow."

(Carapezza) Then, in October, he received a letter from Chick-Fil-A that said the company was blocking his application. The fast-food company’s slogan is "Eat Mor Chikin." Chick-Fil-A says Muller-Moore is confusing customers and diluting the restaurant chain’s ad campaign.

Chick-Fil-A wants Muller-Moore to stop printing his kale t-shirts and to turn over his website,

Vermont Law Professor Oliver Goodenough says the debate echoes another recent Vermont case. A Morrisville brewery that makes a beer called "Vermonster" was accused of infringing on the trademark of the Monster energy drink brand. Monster dropped the case when the brewery agreed never to enter the energy drink business.

(Goodenough) "The overarching question in all of these trademark disputes is: Is there a likelihood of confusion between the mark that’s being defended and the mark that’s in question?"

(Carapezza) Goodenough says the Chick-Fil-A trademark seems pretty generic to him.

(Carapezza) Back at his studio, Muller-Moore says he usually listens to classic rock while he works. Lately, he’s been listening to a lot more Willie Nelson.

(Muller-Moore) "Old Willie Nelson – I bet he’d stand beside me if he was here."

(Carapezza) More than 10,000 supporters are standing beside him virtually. They’ve signed a petition online demanding that the fast-food giant drop its charges.

For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza.

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