BUSINESS

'Eat More Kale' Guy Beats Chick-fil-A In Trademark Battle

Vermont folk artist Bo Muller-Moore speaks Friday Dec. 12, 2014 outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier about his winnin
Vermont folk artist Bo Muller-Moore speaks Friday Dec. 12, 2014 outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier about his winning a legal fight to trademark the phrase "eat more kale" despite initial opposition from fast food giant Chick-fil-A, which sought to protect its phrase "eat mor chikin." Muller-Moore said his three-year-legal battle for trademark protection is a victory for the little guy over a corporate giant. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

By Ted Siefer

Dec 12 (Reuters) - A Vermont T-shirt maker has been granted a trademark for the phrase "Eat More Kale," a decision the state's governor on Friday hailed as a victory for "the little guy" over a "corporate bully."

Bo Muller-Moore, who lives in Montpelier, had been ordered to cease using the phrase on T-shirts and other merchandise by the fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A, on the grounds it violated its trademarked slogan, "Eat Mor Chikn."

The United States Patent and Trademark Office this week approved Muller-Moore's application for the trademark, and on Friday he was joined by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on the steps of the state capital to declare victory.

"People recognize that a dude in Vermont that currently has people stealing my easily replicable designs, they recognize I need more protection," Muller-Moore said in an interview on Friday. "People recognize that I'm selling T-shirts online, and they're selling sandwiches in airports and malls and stand-alone stores. And there's plenty of room for each of us."

Muller-Moore's cause drew the support of top officials in Vermont, known for its commitment to family farms and small businesses.

"This isn't just a win for the little guy who stands up to a corporate bully, it's a win for our state," Shumlin said Friday. "In Vermont, we care about what's in our food, who grows it, and where it comes from."

A spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, which is based in Atlanta, said in a email: "Cows love kale, too!"

Cows appear in the company's advertisements holding signs that read "Eat Mor Chikn."

The spokeswoman did not indicate whether the company would pursue further legal action against Muller-Moore.

Muller-Moore first created the "Eat More Kale" design in 2001 at the request of a friend who wanted a T-shirt he could sell to support his family farm. It's since become a rallying cry for enthusiasts of the leafy plant and healthy eating.

The kale battle was not the first time Chick-fil-A faced off with New England interests. In 2012, then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to the company asking it to stay out his city after its leadership came out publicly as opponents of gay marriage, which has been legal in Massachusetts for a decade.

The company has no locations in Vermont or in Boston, according to its website. (Reporting by Ted Siefer in Lowell, Massachsuetts; Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)