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Chipotle is suing Sweetgreen over its use of the word ‘chipotle’ while promoting a new burrito bowl

Sweetgreen StorefrontSweetgreen’s chipotle chicken burrito bowl is at the center of a lawsuit from Chipotle, which claims that promotion for the menu item infringes on its trademarks.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

  • Sweetgreen’s chipotle chicken burrito bowl is the subject of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Chipotle.
  • Chipotle says that the bowl’s promotion infringes on its trademarks and could cause confusion.
  • The Mexican grill chain wants Sweetgreen to stop selling the bowl.

Chipotle is suing Sweetgreen over a new burrito bowl that uses the word “chipotle” in its name.

The Mexican chain’s complaint centers on the “chipotle-chicken burrito bowl,” which Sweetgreen added to its menu last month. The bowl is Sweetgreen’s first “without any greens” and includes blackened chicken, roasted chipotle salsa, wild rice, lime cilantro black beans, tomatoes, and cabbage. The lawsuit was earlier reported by CNN.

Chipotle’s issue isn’t that Sweetgreen used the word “chipotle” alone, the company said in a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Southern California. Rather, the company says, it believes that the font of “chipotle” as it appeared in ads promoting the new bowl infringes on its trademarks.

One example cited in the complaint shows a sign that Sweetgreen uses to promote the burrito bowl. In a photo, the sign includes the word “chipotle” in white capital letters on a red background — a use too similar to a version of Chipotle’s own brand name, the chain claims.

A portion of Chipotle's complaint against Sweetgreen shows a Sweetgreen sign promoting the chipotle-chicken burrito bowl, with the word "chipotle" in all-caps and against a red background. Chipotle claims this looks too similar to a trademark that it holds.A portion of Chipotle’s complaint against Sweetgreen shows a Sweetgreen sign promoting the chipotle-chicken burrito bowl, with the word “chipotle” in all-caps and against a red background. Chipotle claims this looks too similar to a trademark that it holds.

Chipotle, US District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division

Chipotle also claims that Sweetgreen’s bowl has similar ingredients to an item on Chipotle’s menu. Sweetgreen also plans to offer a discount on the bowl on Thursday, April 6, or “National Burrito Day.” Chipotle says in its complaint that the discount “is clearly intended to copy and trade off of” Chipotle’s own Burrito Day promotion, which it has offered in the past.

According to the complaint, Chipotle wants Sweetgreen to stop selling the bowl and pay it damages, legal fees, and the profit that it has realized so far from the item.

A Sweetgreen spokesperson told Insider that it is aware of the lawsuit but said that the company does not comment on pending litigation. 

Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, declined to comment specifically on the case but said that the company is “committed to protecting our valuable trademarks and intellectual property.” 

“Consistent with that, we will take appropriate actions whenever necessary to protect our rights and our brand,” Schalow said.

Disputes between restaurants, retailers, and food brands over trademarks are common. In late 2021, PepsiCo dropped the word “Rise” from the name of a Mountain Dew energy drink after coffee brand Rise Brewing said the name, as presented on cans of the energy drink, was too similar to its own. 

Startups are especially at risk if they infringe on a trademark or a larger brand infringes on theirs, legal experts have said, because larger companies have more money and resources to fight a claim. A key test in these cases, according to the experts, is whether or not the alleged infringement is confusing customers about which brand is selling the product.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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